New Era for Lady Mohawk Volleyball

Friday, August 30, 2013
The 2013 Lady Mohawk volleyball team

For the first time since this year's seniors were in pre-school, the Piggott High School volleyball program is under new leadership. This fall, former Lady Mohawk Nikki Speer takes over the reins of the successful squad, and is being assisted by Melissa Hopkins-Turner. Speer was a multi-sport standout for the Tribe and attended Williams Baptist on scholarship to play both volleyball and softball. She takes over for longtime coach Melissa Williams, who left during the summer to take a job at Paragould.

But, Williams didn't leave the cupboard empty as she made her exit--as the Tribe returns a wealth of talent to the senior high squad. Meanwhile, the junior team is a young squad, and will be looking to gain experience as they defend their district title. Combine that with a huge class of seventh graders, and the season should be both interesting and entertaining.

Senior Lady Mohawks

This year's Lady Mohawk volleyball team boasts five seniors, three of which were recognized with post-season honors from last year's state qualifier. The group includes All Conference and All-State selections Kacey Crossfield and Taylor Davis, along with All-Conference selection Erica Vancil. Crossfield was also named to the All-State Tournament squad. Rounding out the class of 2014 are Bre Chandler and Jess Scheffler, both regulars on last year's team.

"Our goal is to get back to the state tournament, and get a little further than we did before," Speer said of her varsity squad. "It's always our goal to go a little further than we did before, and the state finals are Nov. 2, and it sure would be great to be there."

Last year the Lady Mohawks won their first round game at the state 3A tournament at Harding Academy over Conway Christian, but then fell to Fountain Lake in the second round.

Speer noted she'll be looking to her talented senior class for not only game performance, but also for leadership. "We've got five returning seniors, and that's awesome-because they're all players and they will be out there on the floor," she added. "Behind them I've got a great bunch--in fact, front to back on the senior high team I don't have one player that I would be afraid to put out on the floor."

Rounding out the roster are juniors Jessie Mallard, Alexa DeHart, Abby Holcomb, McKenzie Hopkins, Quest Emerson, Shelby Chavez and Bailey Pollard--along with sophomores Molly Daffron, MaKalia Beck, Madison Chandler, Holly Boyd, Meagan Woodard and Taylor Choate. Both Beck and Chandler were All-Conference selections for last year's champion junior high squad.

"Compared to other teams in the area we've got good size and strength, we just need to get them to all play together at the same time, and then we'll be fine," Speer surmised.

Thursday, Aug. 22, the Lady Mohawks hosted a jamboree at PHS, and the first year coach had a chance to see her team in action against some of the top talent in the state as Westside, Paragould, Jonesboro and Harrisburg took part. The Tribe got off to a good start, but dropped their early games. But, later in the evening an outstanding performance by the "B" squad in a win over Jonesboro seemed to lift the entire team. "We started out hot, but the adrenaline burned off a little about mid-way through our Paragould game," Speer explained. "And we let that carry over into the game with Harrisburg, our conference foe--and they kind of snuck up on us and beat us, which talent-wise should not have happened."

But, after the "B" team win over the Hurricane of JHS the varsity squad went out and posted a big win over Paragould in the nightcap. "We pushed a lot harder in that game, and it was a big win for us," she surmised.

Junior Lady Mohawks

"I've only got three freshmen on the junior high team, and they don't have a lot of game experience," Speer said of her young Mohawks. "But, I do expect them to be good leaders and that can take us a long way." The freshman class includes Colby Crossfield, Grayson Murray and Brooke Moore.

"We've also got a good bunch of eighth graders, and there will be three seventh graders that will dress out with them this year," she added.

Rounding out the roster for the Junior Lady Mohawks are eighth graders Reagan Ralph, Emily Trosper, Emily Massey, Emily Seegraves Georgina Buatista, Lexi Herren and Allison Kilbreath along with seventh graders Sawyer Hendrix, Harley Earnhart and Paige Choate.

Named as assistant this year was Melissa Hopkins-Turner, and Speer feels the two coaches will complement one another as the season progresses. "I didn't know her very well going into this, but I think we'll make a great team," she observed. "She does some of the things very well that I don't do well, so I feel she is a great addition for me."

The teams were scheduled to begin the regular season Tuesday at Westside, and will host Nettleton in non-conference action Thursday, Aug. 29, at PHS. They'll be on the road Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Ridgefield Christian to begin the conference season and will host Cedar Ridge Thursday, Sept. 5. On Saturday, Sept. 7, the senior team will play in an invitational at Southaven, Miss., and the following Monday, Sept. 9, the senior "A" and "B" teams will visit the Kennett Lady Indians.

The 2013 3A state volleyball tournament will be played Oct. 29 to Oct. 31 at Alpena High School, and the state finals will be played Nov. 2, at Russellville. Needless to say the Lady Mohawks are already looking forward to punching their ticket for another trip to the state tourney, and expectations are high they'll once again make a big impact.

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