When Shyrah Schisler took over the Springdale Har-Ber volleyball program, she wanted to institute a toughness about her girls, and a no-excuses type team. She’s done just that.
Last season was, literally, a banner year for the Lady Wildcats, finishing as the 7A runner-up with a 28-6-1 record. Har-Ber had to leap certain hurdles to get to the state finals, and Schisler couldn’t have been more proud of her group.
“As far as I know we had not beaten Bentonville for several years before I got here,” she said. “Beating them in the semifinals last year was great for us. They’re such a great program, and same with Fayetteville. One thing, though, I think sets us apart is we’re mentally focused. We’ve accomplished some things, and now it’s about keeping our eye on the prize.”
Har-Ber defeated rival Bentonville in five sets in the semifinals before falling in five to Fayetteville in the title game. The Lady Wildcats, though, are preparing for yet another deep run in the playoffs as six players from last season return along with four key newcomers.
Har-Ber will send three future Division I players to the court in Klaire Trainor (Arkansas), Emily Doss (UCA) and Arika Johnson (Southern Illinois-Edwardsville). 7A-West Newcomer of the Year Lauren Thompson also returns as an improved defensive player who is becoming a threat as an outside hitter.
Seniors Paige Williams and Jaden Williams plan to continue their careers following high school, but are undecided on a school as of now.
“For us, (the finals run) was so important for us because we’ve worked so hard to build this program and establish it,” Schisler said. “My girls worked their tails off last year, and we really thrive on conditioning and being in really great shape. Making it that far last year, we kept the same routine every day and kept our eye on the prize.”
The coach says the camaraderie on the team makes it that much more fun to be around. Their ability to take coaching has only enhanced the club’s chances at being a state title contender once again.
“This group of girls’ team chemistry (is great),” she said. “They are 100 percent in, and it’s so fun to coach when you can push kids to the next level. Their heart and determination is so much fun to coach.”
Schisler admits her team isn’t the biggest, but speed, explosiveness and mental focus sets them apart from most teams in the conference.
“I’ll put my girls up against any team as far as strength and conditioning,” she said. “We’re tiny compared to some teams, so we have to use (speed) and that part of the game to make us better.”
The Lady Wildcats traveled to Illinois and Kansas City over the summer, facing competition Schisler said was bigger, faster and stronger. She knows it will only benefit her team in the long-term.
“I’m really excited for this year,” she said. “The girls have shown their dedication.”