Ambassadors of the game of volleyball like Wendy Porter have helped it get a global appeal.
Recently in Nairobi, Kenya, Porter taught at an international school and coached the volleyball team. But the Texas native is glad to be back States side taking over the controls of the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels.
“Volleyball was a common sport other there, but not as intense as it is in the south,” Porter acknowledged. “You had a few girls who played in the States before and they were good players. But for most girls it was soccer. Soccer is the big thing over there.
“I got frustrated a lot in Kenya because I love the sport and it’s my favorite,” she added. “I got frustrated because I felt like they didn’t care. They were out there to just have fun. But the girls here want to learn and do well to be the best. They’re competitive.”
The TRA roster features several underclassmen with experience during the Ann Watson era. And the 2012 edition has one returning senior in Mady Kate Gantt.
“She’s an athlete,” Porter said. “And she will be an asset on the front row.”
Back from East Africa, Porter has spent her time in North Shelby County getting to know the best spots for her new players.
“We have a lot of talent,” she said. “A lot them are playing Club. Five or six of them have a lot of experience although they’re juniors and sophomores. I feel with a lot of competitive talent, that will benefit us. I think if they play hard and mentality stays up, it will take us far.”
Some of the notable returning players are Jackie Kuykendall, Asante Lopez and Kendall Seering. Kuykendall is a returning Max Preps Player of the Week. She came into the preseason known for her defense and digs.
The junior will be the libero in Porter’s system. The first-year coach said she is smart and has good knowledge of the game. Fellow junior Seering will be one of the setters. She will be joined by newcomer from Missouri Bethany Berger in that position.
Porter said both players read the floor well. Berger is also an all-around threat on the court. Lopez, a sophomore, is another player who can be placed in multiple spots on the court.
She made a name for herself last season as a hitter. Lopez will be an outside hitter this year.
With several young players, Porter said she’ll get a chance to mold them in the game she’s learned over the years and all over the world. But when it comes to game time, Porter said her team will take the schedule one by one.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” she concluded. “I told them, ‘Yes our final destination is State. But that’s long term. But our first goal is Bolton. We’re not making it to State unless we take it game by game.”