Team chemistry was a major talking point throughout coach Meagan Thompson’s first season at Springdale.
A year later, she feels her Lady Red’Dogs are a stronger team thanks to a year of familiarity and offseason experience.
“I feel like our chemistry is a lot better, and even being with me for a full year,” Thompson said. “I know my players really well, and they know each other better and they have more trust. The chemistry on the court is just better, and last year that’s something we kind of struggled with.”
Another reason for optimism this year is returning production. KeKe Turner, who led Springdale with 195 kills a season ago, returns to anchor the middle. Turner was the lone Lady Red’Dog to tally more than 100 kills.
As a sophomore, Zoe Schmidt (84 kills) shined late in the season for Thompson, recording a season-high 15 kills in a 3-2 loss to Van Buren. One week later, she again reached double-digit kills against Rogers. Thompson said the plan this season for the versatile junior is to “move her all around.”
“I’ve seen a lot of good progression,” Thompson said of Schmidt. “She’s one of those kids that really strives to get better. She’s really coachable and wants to be a good leader and the best player she can be. She’s definitely improving and showing good leadership skills on the court.”
Kaleigh Breathitt is doing good things at libero and Aliyah Brown has stepped up as a setter as well, Thompson said.
With so many returning players, Thompson said junior Lauren Bench has been a solid new addition as a left-hander on the right side. Bench did not see time on junior varsity or varsity in 2016, but has been a surprise so far.
Springdale won both benefit matches 2-0 last week against Huntsville and Alma. Schmidt and Turner both finished with nine total kills and Bench added eight. Annalia Slater assisted on 19 kills as well.
As Thompson enters her second season at Springdale, the vibe is improved and expectations are trending in the right direction, she said.
“I know what they can do and I’ve seen what they can do,” Thompson said. “Overall, there’s a better feeling for what this team should look like and what they can be successful at.”