A good amount of the summer spent by the Greenwood Lady Bulldog volleyball team was by going camping.

But it wasn’t camping for rest and relaxation, and it definitely didn’t involve tents and being outdoors. Rather, Greenwood took part in several team camps, spending quality bonding time in indoor venues.

“I feel like we’ve had some really good camps this summer,” Greenwood coach Jennifer Golden said. “We went to Missouri State and played about 30 sets and ended up in the Gold bracket, playing against a very tough team out of Illinois. … We ended up second out of that bracket out of technically 24 varsity teams.

“Then we came home and we hosted a team camp at Greenwood; we played really well there and then (Aug. 2) we went to Hot Springs Lakeside for a team camp and played some pretty tough teams there and had some good matches, too.”

Golden believes the camping experience will pay off for a Lady Bulldog team coming off a 30-win season in 2018, which ended with a 5A state runner-up finish.

“I feel like we’ve put in a lot of work in a short amount of time, and we’re on our way to what I think is going to be a really good season,” she said.

The Lady Bulldogs will also bring back plenty of experience, including senior hitter Camryn Presley and senior libero Izzy Davis. Presley was the team’s leader in kills (324) and blocks (130), while Davis led the Lady Bulldogs in digs (501) and service aces (39).

“Both of them have really just stepped up with their play and their senior leadership,” Golden said. “I think it’s exciting to watch them come out wanting to get better and wanting to strive for that goal that they have.”

But Golden and the Lady Bulldogs were dealt a serious blow when another returning senior starter, outside hitter Zoie Benton, is out for the season with a severe knee injury. Benton was second on the team in kills a season ago.

“It’s heart-breaking for me, a kid the caliber of Zoie to have something like that to happen and for it to happen on her senior year, it’s just tough. … It’s tough being out there and not seeing her on the court because she’s definitely missed,” Golden said.

As a result of Benton’s injury, Golden had to make a few changes up front. That included moving Presley to the outside.

“She’s really stepped up this off-season and done a great job,” Golden said of Presley. “We have some other players that are kind of just battling for that other outside hitting spot, and all three have a good chance, but I think it’s just going to be a battle all year long as to who earns the spot maybe weekly.”

Those three outside hitter candidates Golden is referring to include senior Bella Mora and juniors Caylee Ciesla and Sami Stilley.

Golden also brings back junior middle hitter Larkin Luke, a player the coach has mentioned is having a strong off-season.

“When we look at stats, it’s kind of unbelievable the amount of balls she’s been getting and putting down and the averages that she’s been putting out, so that’s kind of one of the best things about what’s going on is her and Hannah (Watkins, another junior) both have just been really, really solid in the middle,” Golden said.

“On the right side, I’ve got (senior) Brooke Jones returning, and she’s just a force on the right side. When she gets a hold of a ball, your jaw just drops, plus she puts up a really good block, so she’s going to fill out a really nice spot this year also.”

The Lady Bulldogs are dealing with another injury situation, this time in the back row as defensive specialist Josie Chapple, a senior, is out for several weeks with a quad strain. While waiting for Chapple to return, Golden is using a pair of juniors, Jocelyn Sewell and Madison Pugh.

Greenwood will go to Bentonville on Aug. 22 for its benefit match, and will also play Shiloh Christian there. The Lady Bulldogs start the season at home on Aug. 26 against Fayetteville.

“We’re excited, we’re raring to go,” Golden said. “I feel like we’re prepared and we still have another week before we even play. … We’re ready. It’s down to the point where let’s get it going and see what we can do.”


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