Lady Bobcats optimistic after graduating four starters

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Berryville's Kelcee Hopper tips the ball over the net in a match against Prairie Grove last year.
Charles Chappell /

The Berryville Lady Bobcat volleyball team returns two starters from a team that reached the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament a year ago.

The Lady Bobcats graduated seven seniors last year. Berryville coach Kristin Whetham said this shouldn't be a cause for concern, though.

"We definitely have plenty of talent, but it's just a matter of getting it to mesh together and figure out who is capable of what and trusting each other," Whetham said. "Just bonding as a team and clicking that way."

Aspen Smith and Kelcee Hopper are the two returning starters for the Lady Bobcats. Aspen Smith, who had been the libero the last two years, has been moved outside. Marlea Stone will play the libero position for the Lady Bobcats this year. Kamryn Smith, a senior, will be a setter this season. Nora Waller and Chaney Seitz will rotate in as outside hitters. Kate Powell and Karissa Sperduto will provide help at setter. Sophomores Lexy Anderson and Taylor Swofford will also be counted on for Berryville.

"This year is a little bit different than last year," Whetham said. "I have a lot of options. I haven't quite figured out what's going to mesh and what's going to work yet, but we still have a little bit of time before that first game starts."

Junior Hannah Morrell has also decided to rejoin the volleyball team. Whetham said she can be a real asset to the team.

"She will be a big help for height and power," Whetham said. "She is a very strong middle. When Kelcee Hopper jumped into the back row last year, I was missing that other tall girl in the middle to take that spot so Hannah is going to fill that spot for sure as far as blocking goes. She is going to help get some more touches on the ball so we can get a block or get the ball slowed down so that our defense doesn't have to work so hard."

Berryville is in the blended conference once again, meaning the Lady Bobcats won't face all of their Class 4A Northwest rivals in the regular season. They will get to face the likes of Shiloh Christian, Huntsville and Pea Ridge, though. The Lady Bobcats also play in three tournaments in Missouri.

"This year it will be a little bit easier because we are playing a little bit different bag," Whetham said. "And we are playing more of our 4A conference this year. Last year we didn't get a chance to play Shiloh (Christian) until the district tournament and there were a couple of the 4A teams that we didn't get to see until the district tournament. And then we are playing three tournaments in Missouri, and that's usually better competition. I'm hoping the better competition will help us in the long run. We might lose a few games here and there because of it, but I'm hoping it will help us toward the end of the season when we need to be playing our best."

Berryville's first match is on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at Shiloh Christian. Between now and then, Whetham hopes to see the Lady Bobcats continue to get better as a team.

"Mainly, I just want to see us mesh together," Whetham said. "The talent is there, it's just a matter of them getting used to playing with each other because this group has never played with each other. Just coming together as a team, communicating with each other, knowing what each other can do and playing as one big team as opposed to six or seven individual people. And we have gotten better, but we still have a little bit of work to do."

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