This season, Lincoln head coach Patti Hansen has 16 players, including eight seniors that are competing for playing time. She believes that their depth will be an advantage this fall.
“We are excited,” Hansen said. “We have eight seniors, so we have a lot of depth on our bench this time. I am going to be able to substitute a lot this year. I’ll be able to get girls in and out.
“I think that is going to get our girls to work harder in practices and at the matches knowing that there are girls fighting very hard for their positions.”
Coming into the season, the Lady Golden Bears are focused on repeating as area champions, but they will have to do it against new teams. Last season, Lincoln had St.Clair County, Childersburg and Munford in their area. The Lady Lions of Munford remain in the area with Lincoln, but St.Clair County and Childersburg were replaced with Anniston and Cleburne County.
“Our area has changed,” Hansen said. “We have Heflin, Munford and Anniston. I haven’t played Anniston or Heflin in a while. They were in our area several years ago. It has been a while since we have played them, so I am not exactly sure what they have. I think we will still be sitting well and be in one of those top two positions with the caliber people that we have.”
If the Lady Golden Bears are able to win or end up second in the area, they will travel to Huntsville for the North Super Regional. The new format replaces the Sub-State tournament. Hansen has mixed feelings about the new format.
“I am excited about that,” Hansen said. “It increases the level of play and increases the idea of volleyball in our state. I think it is going to be a great asset for us as a whole for the state of Alabama.
“For us at Lincoln High School it is still going to be pretty tough. We are still going to have to cross in the Super Regional with teams we have faced in the past, such as Guntersville and Jacksonville. You still have good schools that you are still going to have to cross.”
Senior Leia Brown enters the season focused on defending their area and county thrones.
“I am very excited,” Brown said. “We are the defending county champions for the past five years and the defending area champions. We want to keep going with that. We want to win the county and area again this year.”
Last season, the Lady Golden Bears only had 10 players, which allowed most of their underclassmen a chance to gain valuable experience.
The experience helped out Destiny Dye. The senior left outside hitter said gaining experience last season has helped her confidence going into the new season.
“This year, I am actually starting to get the hang of it, Dye said. “I have really learned a lot. I am looking forward to stepping up and being a leader to the underclassmen.”
Crystal Calhoun also gained valuable experience last season. Calhoun said she doesn’t feel any pressure to perform on the court this season. She said she feels pressure when it comes to setting the right example for underclassmen.
“For me it is more pressure being a leader and doing things the right way so the people under me will know what to do,” Calhoun said. “I want what I am doing to be right. I don’t want to lead them the wrong way.”
Senior Alliyah Gover said this season’s team is more like a family. Like most families, they have to battle through adversity, but she said they are always there for each other like a family.
“I am excited about the upcoming season,” Gover said. “Last season, we had so many people that doubted us. They were saying that we were not going to make it this far. We had people doubting us, but we went on to win area.
“I feel like we take that negative energy and turn it into positive energy out here on the court. I am excited about this year’s team. We are working hard. We have new girls out here, but we are helping them out. To me volleyball is like a family; we are all helping each other out like a family would.”
The Lady Golden Bears’ family was also there for Paige Wetzel and her husband after he was injured in Afghanistan. Wetzel was the instructor for Jacksonville State University’s team camp that Lincoln attended.
“A lot of the girls know her well,” Hansen said. “Last summer, she got married and her and her husband moved to Oregon. He was deployed to Afghanistan. He was injured over there. While we were at our team camp at Jacksonville, we got together and made cards. We made some goodie bags and we got some donations to try to support them.”
Lincoln opens the season on Aug. 23 at Southside at 5 p.m.