Lincoln head coach Patti Hansen lost seven of her 12 players returning from last season’s team. Hansen, who is going into her ninth season as head coach, believes that the newcomers will make a smooth transition onto the varsity.
“We have five players back from last year’s team, so it is kind of a rebuilding team,” Hansen said. “We’ve had good progress with our JV (junior varsity) teams in the past and coming up now. So we are going to have to have a good group coming up to fill that out. We have girls who have played a lot at that JV level, but they were starters, so they will come in and help us a lot. We have several seniors, and we will have a total of eight seniors. Only four of those seniors played last year, so we got those coming.”
The Lady Golden Bears once again opened fall camp by holding the Jacksonville State camp. Over those three days the girls stayed over the night in the gym, which allowed the players to bond. Hansen said the Lady Golden Bears defensive skills improved during the camp.
“Jacksonville State came here for our camp for us and we focused a lot more on our defense,” Hansen said. “We are hoping that we will play better at the net with the skill work they were teaching us in those three days of camp here.”
Lincoln only has five players back from last season’s team that earned a trip to the Super Regional tournament in Huntsville last season.
“We have Shelbi White back as a strong middle,” Hansen said. ”She was named our Defensive Player of the Year last year at our banquet in the spring. She is going to be very instrumental on the front row. Katelyn Bean is another senior and she will be our setter. Opposite of her will be Megan Elston, who is another senior setter. Both of them are going to be strong hitters too, so that the idea of them hitting on the back row and on the front row. They will be very strong. Clancy Carlisle and Arriana Swain are both liberos, so they will be coming in very strong for us on the back row. They have been playing it several years.”
With seven newcomers on this season’s team, Hansen said there’s competition in practice for playing time. Senior Clancy Carlisle said she has been impressed with some of the newcomers.
“We lost a bunch of seniors last year, but we got a lot of girls that played JV that have stepped up and doing really good,” Carlisle said. “We are really excited about this year.”
This isn’t the first time that this team has played together. The five seniors that had varsity experience from last season played with the new players for several years, before moving onto the varsity team.
“This is the team we had when we were on JV, so we all work well together,” Katelyn Bean said.
Even though more than half of this season’s team consists of new faces, Hansen has high expectations from her team.
“I am expecting these girls to go past the first round,” Hansen said. “That has been the stumbling block for us for the last seven years. I am hoping that we will get past that this year and I am hoping that the defensive work that we got that is something that they will be able to do. We allowed Heflin to beat us in the area championship match last year, which was a heartbreaker. It went five sets and they were a very strong team. We let that slip by us. We are hoping to redeem ourselves and be area champs again. Of course as always we want to reign again as County champions. Hopefully, the girls will work hard and do what they are suppose to make that happen.”
Lincoln fell to Pope John Paul II (3-0) in the opening round of the AHSAA Class 4A North Super Regional Tournament in Huntsville.
“Last year was my first year, so now I know what to expect,” senior libero Arriana Swain said. “I know to expect hard hits; you have to be ready for it, you have to keep your eyes open and follow the ball. That is going to make us raise the level of our game. The harder they come the harder we are going to get.”
Lincoln has dominated county opponents over the past six seasons. The Lady Golden Bears have a record of 99-4 and they are the six-time defending Talladega County Champions. Last season, Lincoln fell to Winterboro in a match. Hansen believes that the teams in the county are getting more competitive.
“County competition is much tougher I think,” Hansen said. “All of our county schools are getting stronger. I think there is a little bit more consistency in our coaches now in the county. They are doing such a great jobs with their teams. It is making us have to work harder and it is making every team in the county work harder.”
Middle blocker Shelbi White acknowledges having a target on their backs makes them work harder.
“It makes us work harder,” White said. “Every day we work hard and do a little bit better, so when it comes to game day we can get the work done and be successful.”