Lady Hounds preparing for 2017 volleyball campaign, looking for more improvement

Senior Katie Sandlin will be one of the keys to the success of the 2017 Manchester volleyball squad.

Compton returns for second season with MHS varsity – 

Story and photos by Mark Carpenter – 

Coming off an 8-13 season in 2016, Coach Kaci Compton returns for year number two at the helm of the Manchester Lady Hounds volleyball program, and the goals for 2017 are quite plain, turn that under .500 record into a winning mark. Compton will be assisted by JV coach Jennifer Stricklett, who brings to the table previous experience in the Lady Hounds’ program.
“We had our ups and downs last year,” says Compton. “This year we will be looking to showcase our core group of players, especially our seniors who bonded together so well by the end of last season. We also want to challenge some of our younger girls to fill the spots that we need filled. It will be fun to see who shines in those areas.”
As of press time, the Lady Hounds had 26 high school players attending practices, a number that Compton is really happy with. Five of those players are seniors- Katie Sandlin, Gabi Lainhart, McKinlee Grooms, Alyssa Hoskins, and Sierra Thatcher. The Manchester squad will have one big hole to fill as junior Abby McFarland, one of the team’s top athletes in 2016, may miss the 2017 season with a pair of injured knees.
“It’s exciting and encouraging to see this many girls in my second year,” said Compton. “We have our five seniors, multiples of every grade, a big sophomore class, and some very talented freshmen.”
Compton has the luxury of some returnees with experience at the skill positions, beginning with setter Aaliyah Smith, who took that job by the horns and ran with it last season.
“Aaliyah is just so quick and skilled at the setter position, and we have some others who can spell her late in the season if necessary,” said Compton. “We tried last year to run a 4-2 rotation with two setters and that didn’t work well, so we went back to a traditional 5-1. We may run a couple of different things this year where you might not know who the setter is going to be.”

Senior Gabi Lainhart brings speed and versatility to the 2017 Lady Hounds’ volleyball team.

“I just want to have good sets all season,” says Smith, who is entering her junior season. “I want us to win together as a team and I’d sure like to see us on one of the banners on the wall.”
Handling the majority of the big hitting duties at the net will be the senior Sandlin.
“Coming into this year, Katie is our most consistent hitter and she has developed a lot in club ball,” says Compton. “McKinlee Grooms became a versatile outside and middle hitter for us last year, and we will hope for good work at the net from Alyssa Hoskins and Gabi Lainhart when the occasion calls for it.”
“I just really want to have a winning season my senior year,” says Sandlin. “I would like to have more kills this year than I have in the past.”
“An obvious goal for us this year is to have a winning record,” says Coach Compton. “We really want to build this team and this program to have our players be more consistent. We hope to start a little better than we did last year and then continue to improve as a team. With the five seniors, we will have to spend time also developing the younger girls to step into their places. We do have a really good freshman class to work with.”
“We will compete this year. I’m confident in our girls.”