One aspect of the Springdale High volleyball job Meagan Thompson found attractive is that the Lady Bulldogs are in a similar situation to her previous gig at Kimmons Junior High in Fort Smith.
Thompson takes over a Springdale program that finished 8-18-1 last season with just one win in 7A-West play (1-13). With that in mind, the new coach realizes much of the program-building process begins with establishing leadership and relationships.
“The most important thing this year is going to be building relationships with middle school, junior high kids and high school kids,” Thompson said. “You have to build relationships to help build the program.”
She began seeing progress at Kimmons in her final couple of seasons, finishing toward the middle of the pack in the conference. And a characteristic of this team she likes, too, is the eagerness to be successful and have a winning program.
“They’ve been working really hard, but basically we need to focus more on the fundamentals and figure out how to work really well as a team,” she said. “That’s been one of our main focuses.”
On the court, juniors Keke Turner, Elaina Pack and Kaleigh Breathitt will be key players, all for different reasons, the coach says. Springdale will send a young team leadership-wise to the court each match, but Thompson is a firm believer in game experience paying dividends down the road.
Turner presents a strong serving option and front row presence. “When she’s syncing the ball with the setter she’s pretty much unstoppable,” Thompson added. Pack and Breathitt will provide the Lady Bulldogs with defensive help. Breathitt is likely to start at libero with solid serve and receive skills while Pack’s strength is reading opponents’ defenses to land easy points.
With such a young team, pulling together as a collective unit is one of the main focal points less than two weeks away from the season opener.
The girls need not be reminded either of the difficulties the 7A-West can present with defending state champion Fayetteville and others on the schedule.
“They have an idea (how difficult the 7A-West is),” Thompson said. “In my eyes it’s the toughest volleyball conference in the state and the girls know that.
“The biggest motto we’re pushing this year is to “finish empty.” That way they can’t be disappointed in themselves regardless of the outcome of the game.”