The Southside Mavericks are used to being the hunted.

That may never be more true than with the 2019 team.

Less than four weeks removed from their Aug. 27 season opener with Van Buren, the Mavericks know they’ll take everybody’s best shot this season.

That target is real.

“We’ve talked about that with the girls — a target on your front, a target on your back,” first-year coach Natalie Throneberry said. “That could be at any time with this team this season. We’re trying to pay less attention to what other people are gunning for, and spending more time with our techniques and our fundamentals and making sure we’re all on the same page.”

“We really like where we are,” junior Hannah Hogue said. “We’re pretty young coming in; we lost a lot of seniors. But we have a chip on our shoulder from last year, and I think we’re really chasing that.”

The Mavs did everything in former coach Steve Haaser’s final season in 2018 except bring home another banner. The team’s loss to Conway in the 6A finals still stings.

And, while the Mavericks have key pieces to replace, such as Hannah Holland, Emily Bass and Sarah Tolbert, the team does have giant chunks of the offense back in place.

Hogue, hard-hitting Avery Fitzgerald and Aleigha Johnson accounted for 815 of the team’s 1,360 kills in 2018. Johnson led the team with 76 blocks.

“I think the target on our backs motivates us,” Fitzgerald said. “It encourages us to work harder. We have to try harder and be louder. I think being a target is good.”

“A lot of us played together in junior high and we feel really comfortable with each other,” Hogue said. “I think this preseason, we’ve gotten to know each other even better.”

Senior Kelsey Hamilton is among the candidates to replace Bass at libero.

“I played all the way around my ninth-grade year, but for every other team I’ve played libero,” Hamilton said. “Basically, I have to remember to stay in the middle and do my job.”

Along with Hamilton, Throneberry is counting on seniors Hailey Beadle, Kelsey Wilson and Bailey Vega.

Throneberry likes the way the team has meshed.

“This is your family; this is your family for the entire year,” Throneberry said. “This group is great; they push each other. They’ve done everything I’ve asked of them and more. They’re a little bit hungry, and I like seeing that.”

“We have a really good team this year,” Hamilton said. “We have really good chemistry this year.”

The Mavs have a typical tough early season schedule, which includes powerhouses Fayetteville and Greenwood in preparation for the team’s Sept. 5 conference opener against Conway.

“We have to put in a lot of hard work, that’s the big thing,” Fitzgerald said. “We have to maintain good work ethic and don’t slump down.”

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