Munford Head Volleyball Coach Nina Makris has a plan to get her team ready for October.
She and her Lady Cougars have taken the road in month to play in tournaments in Collierville and Bartlett. Those areas are home to some of the best teams in West Tennessee like the Houston Lady Mustangs, Arlington Lady Tigers, Collierville Lady Dragons and Bartlett Lady Panthers.
Those happen to be teams the Lady Cougars would have to beat to reach Sub-State and State next month. In recent years Munford has been the top cat in District 13-3A and made five straight Sub-State appearances earning spots in the Elite Eight in 2007 and 2010.
In 2012, three players from that 2010 State team are seniors with Sami Jo Schulz, Lauren Zvolanek and Kelsey Hale. Underclassmen like Laura Leavell, Precious Mills, Jodi Duncan and Cecily Gable bring to the court the experience of reaching Sub-State last year losing to Houston.
Makris said the talent is there, but she is still trying to get her team to overcome an issue its faced for years, evening during the days of Lady Cougar legends like Brandi Hale, Crystal Williams and Scarlet Gable.
“We need to get a little better with our communication and being loud of course with our passes and getting sets on the net,” she said. “But we’re not doing too bad.
“I could beg, I don’t know,” Makris said of solving the problem. “Lauren is pretty good on trying to get people to talk. It’s going to take them wanting it bad enough to come out of that slump when they start getting quiet.”
On Aug. 31 during the Collierville Tournament, the laid back Lady Cougars were competitive in matches against Houston and St. Cecilia out of Nashville before losing the matches.
In day two of the tournament, Munford got on track being the athlete White Station Lady Spartans and Whitehaven Lady Tigers. Makris said being competitive against all four teams illustrated her team’s experience.
“We only really lost Savannah (Gable) from last year as for playing time,” she noted. “It’s not like there’s only freshmen and sophomores out there. They are an experienced group. Precious is coming in as the libero. They’re helping her out. But as for a team, they all might as well be seniors because they’ve played through a couple of years now.”
While Mills adjusts to her spot, veterans like Duncan are settling back in their spots against the high-level of competition. Duncan is the setter and one of the team leaders in assists.
Hale, Schulz and Zvolanek are contributing all over the court in scoring. Leavell is using her size at the net to block. And Makris is looking for her sophomore Cecily Gable to be a force in point production.
“I’m trying to get her to do a little better as far as her focus,” she acknowledged. “Every once in a while she’ll hit the ball out. She’s too good of a player to be doing that. We’re just trying to keep her focused and realizing she needs to be producing every single point.”
Makris said the early season tournaments will help Gable and all the Lady Cougars for the postseason tourneys in October.
“It’s a chance to see what the competition is,” she said. “The further we go along, that’s how good the teams are going to be in comparison to a Houston or Collierville at Sub-State. There’s no way around it. We’re going to see one of those teams if we get to Sub-State. Bartlett is a good team and they’re in our Region.
“We have to come to these types of tournaments so it can make us better,” Makris concluded. “So when we get to the Regionals and the Sectionals, we’re not playing a slow-pace game when everybody else is playing a fast pace game. We’re a step behind, so it’s helping us work on our timing and our focus.”