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LONOKE VOLLEYBALL | Season ready to start for Park’s squad

A much-anticipated volleyball season will begin Tuesday for Lonoke.

Laura Park’s Lady Jackrabbits, who will play host to the Class 4A State Tournament at the Gina Cox Center, will travel to Clinton for the season and 4A-Central conference opener.

The realigned conference also includes Central Arkansas Christian, Riverview, Arkansas Baptist, Clinton, Heber Springs, West Helena, Pulaski Robinson and Southside Batesville. League format will be a double round-robin.

Six seniors will lead Lonoke in Park’s 27th season.

“Some of our strengths are leadership, mostly seniors, and I’ve got a couple of underclassmen that are stepping up and doing some good things,” Park said. “I’ve got several seniors that are actually pushing me to make them better. They want to be good and want to win.

“Their mentality in the past has been, ‘We’ve got to make it to state.’ But this group is saying, ‘We’re not only going to make it to state; we want to win it.’”

The senior class includes Charlie Jo Chesney at setter; Emily Moore, outside hitter; Eboni Willis, middle blocker; Janae Miller, outside/opposite; Kira Gibbs, setter; and Paola Negrete, libero.

“I usually have three or four seniors, but this group started with me in seventh grade and has played all the way through except for Miller, who moved here at the end of ninth grade,” Park said.

Those seniors will try to take the Lady Jackrabbits further than they’ve ever gone. Their best finish has been the state quarterfinals. They fell to Valley View, the eventual state champion, in last year’s first round.

“With the girls’ work ethic and mentality, I’m looking for good things,” Park said of this season. “They’ve got the potential.”

With the beginning of the semester Monday, the Lady Jackrabbits have shifted to their usual afternoon practice schedule.

Park said this week would be spent fine-tuning in advance of next week’s season opener.

“I’ve got some girls I can use in key spots,” she said. “I’m waiting for them to step up and show me I can count on them in places. I may start with six on the court, but I look to play a lot of girls.

“I don’t want to depend on just the starting six. I want girls to come in and play, and that way I’ll have those underclassmen with experience who can continue great things for us next year.”

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