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Mustangs expect no drop-off

The reports of the demise of the Isabella volleyball program have been greatly exaggerated.

A model of success in coach Glenn Graham’s 11 seasons, eight seniors lost to graduation has to be too big a blow for the Mustangs to overcome right? Don’t bet on it.

Aug. 20: vs. Chilton Co. with LAMP

Aug. 24: vs. Marbury with Shelby Co.

Aug. 27: at Billingsley

Aug. 31: at Jemison

Sept. 3: at Montevallo with Calera

Sept. 8: vs. St. Jude* with Billingsley

Sept. 10: at Chilton Co. with Calera

Sept. 12: IHS Invitational Tournament

Sept. 14: at Marbury

Sept. 15: at Shelby Co. with Calera

Sept. 17: at Thorsby* with Holtville

Sept. 19: at Jemison Invitational Tournament

Sept. 22: at Indian Springs

Sept. 24: at LAMP

Sept. 28: vs. Montevallo with Indian Springs

Oct. 1: vs. Jemison

Oct. 5: vs. Thorsby* with R.C. Hatch*

Oct. 10: Chilton County Tournament at Chilton Co. High

*-area match

With three seniors determined to go out on a high note, six players added from a junior varsity team that went 12-1 in 2008 and an all-Advertiser selection in Amber Wyatt, expect Graham’s team to be the same old Isabella.

“I think we actually have a chance to be better than last year,” Graham said. The Mustangs last year compiled a 26-5 regular season record, won its 11th consecutive area championship and made the sub-state round of the playoffs.

The three players back from last year are known commodities. Junior outside hitter Wyatt led the team in kills and blocks and is an imposing presence; senior Marlee Hayes has been penciled in as the starting setter for the past two seasons, but injury and sickness has derailed those plans; and senior libero Kimi Jones is an ideal team captain.

“Kimi is just like a rock for me right now,” Graham said. “She’s worked so hard. She’s leading this team—telling everyone what to do in all the drills.”

The younger players stand to benefit from Jones’ leadership, but they also have plenty of skills of their own. Graham said service will be a team strength. Allison Mims and Jessica Maciel were strong varsity servers last season even while splitting time with the JV. Mims recorded 35 aces for the varsity squad. Also, new varsity player Kaylynn Culp “is just killing it in practice right now,” Graham said.

Senior Kristin Lockhart, juniors Devan Gallett and Heather Mason and sophomore Savannah Kissel fill out the roster, giving Graham 10 players, somewhat less than usual.

“I’ve never had a varsity team this small, but we actually might have a deeper bench because everybody has experience,” Graham said.