One of the most important things Van Buren volleyball coach Brent Reeves believed his team achieved last season was to gain some early confidence.

Especially in the rugged 6A-West Conference, as the Lady Pointers finished the first half of conference play with a 5-2 record. Van Buren went on to an 8-6 finish in the 6A-West and picked up 18 total wins, including an opening-round 6A state tournament win.

“I tell you, I think one of the most important things that happened last year was I think they really started to step up and believe they could win some games. … I think that’s good, I think that’s a big step for any team really, just to have that belief and that they absolutely can,” Reeves said.

Now the Lady Pointers, who resumed off-season workouts Monday following the dead period, are wanting to build off that solid 2018.

“I tell you, we had a great spring; those girls worked hard and I was real proud of them,” Reeves said. “They got after it and we had a really good spring.

“We started back up (Monday) and picked up where they left off. We always talk about having a great start in practice and games and everything, and, really, they had a great start to summer practices (Monday) and did well.”

Van Buren will also bring back a majority of its roster after having graduated just three seniors. The Lady Pointers also return five starters.

Those include senior twin sisters Madalyn and Grace Doolittle, with Madalyn Doolittle playing middle hitter and Grace Doolittle on the outside. Two other seniors being counted on at the net include outside hitter Zoe Morrison and middle hitter Bailey Brooks. Junior libero Brooke Moore also returns.

Two other seniors who may be getting more action this season include middle blocker Sydney Anders and libero Haylee Syrock.

This season’s group of seniors will be very important to Reeves as he inherited them as freshmen when he took over as Van Buren’s coach prior to the start of the 2016 season.

“The seniors are the first bunch I coached in ninth grade when I first got hired at Van Buren, and so it’s one of those special groups that you coach,” Reeves said.

Another boost for Reeves may be the return of junior middle hitter Carter Schmidt, who missed all of last season and most of the basketball season after coming off surgery for a torn meniscus. Another junior, Kiersten Weaver, will be on defense and Reeves is expecting Weaver to be a strong passer.

But Reeves said the entire roster has been exceeding expectations all off-season.

“We’ve got 24 kids out and every one of them is working hard,” he said. “They’ve just come together as a team pretty good.”

On Wednesday, the Lady Pointers will depart for a team camp in Branson, Missouri, an event Reeves is really looking forward to having.

“That’s always a good camp because you go up there and you play all day, get a lot of games in and at night, we do some team bonding stuff,” Reeves said. “It seems like our chemistry, that’s something you work on at camp and when we come back from that, not only on the court but off the court, our chemistry’s a lot better, so just looking forward to that and getting it going and seeing what it looks like when we get home.”

Van Buren will then return home next week to hold a camp that is being conducted by UAFS coach Jane Sargent. The Lady Pointers will then go to Southside for a preseason camp right before the start of the season.

“As far as off-season, one of the things we worked on was being more mentally tough,” Reeves said. “They did a great job becoming more mentally tough in practice.”

There are also a few more things Reeves will be emphasizing between now and the season opener, mainly chemistry.

“It’s probably the same thing for everybody, but just working on the chemistry of the teamwork on the court. … Just working together and coming together,” he said. “Since I’ve got several coming back, I think that will come pretty quickly, but we do have some new people in there as well, so the team chemistry on the court is what we need to (focus on the next few weeks).

“Again, we had a really good spring and we’ve been back for two days so far, but they’ve really been taking off where they left off this spring. It seemed like they came back with a mission and they’re really working hard.”

Van Buren opens its season on Aug. 27 at Southside, the same team that ended the Lady Pointers’ season in the 6A quarterfinals last fall. The Lady Pointers then travel to Alma on Aug. 29 before opening up 6A-West play at home on Sept. 5 against Rogers.


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