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New Bears expect same success

After the loss of five senior starters and its coach from last season, the Billingsley volleyball team will be a shell of its former self.

But the Bears and their new coach, Wayne Martin, think the squad can still be successful.

“We’ve had some girls step up to the plate,” Martin said. “It’s surprising because they’ve shown so much maturity on the court.”

Aug. 27: vs. Isabella

Aug. 31: vs. Akron*

Sept. 8: at Isabella

Sept. 10: at Holtville

Sept. 14: vs. at Akron*

Oct. 1: vs. Marbury

Oct. 6: vs. Holtville

*-area match

The seniors this season are Charlotte McCary and Rachel Willis, and both said they plan to go out on a high note. If that is to happen, several inexperienced players will have to take on more significant roles. So far, so good.

“They’ve all improved a lot since tryouts,” Willis said. “Compared to where they were last year, it’s a lot different,” McCary added and said she is trying to become a team leader.

Setter Haley Taylor is the long returning starter. Martin installed a buddy system, in which each varsity player has a junior varsity player she is responsible for, to ease the younger players’ learning process and teach the older players how to take charge. The tactic seems to have had an effect.

“I really only have my teams to gauge by, so I’ll really only know when we can play someone else,” said Martin, who is coaching volleyball for the first time. “It’s a learning process, but I enjoy the game so it’s a nice fit for me.”

Martin replaces Arleshia Lane-Turner, who is on maternity leave.

Martin said he played volleyball as part of a team formed at a Naval base in Yokosuka, Japan in the late 1990s. The Navy team played a Japanese team.

“They didn’t have a lot of height, but they could play,” Martin said. “That’s one thing that stuck with me: Just because you’re short doesn’t mean you can’t play.”

Martin, who is originally from Cranston, R.I., retired from the Navy in 1998, then taught and coached track and field in Arkansas before moving to Prattville.

Martin said his understanding is that he will return as coach next season, and he will have talent to work with in the future. There are 10 varsity players other than the two seniors, and the junior varsity squad includes 13 players.

“Seeing the girls enthusiastic and seeing them have a heart for the game…It makes my job easier when they’re really into it,” Martin said.