Lineup changes get Mustangs back on track

Published 4:07 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2011

After losing seven seniors, not many people outside the Isabella volleyball program expected the Mustangs to be one win away from a third consecutive trip to the Elite 8 state tournament.

Isabella put together a typically dominant start to the season, but then lost nine of 16 matches in the middle of the year, appearing set to prove all the doubters correct.

But a couple of lineup changes by coach Glen Graham got the team back on track—and hosting a sub-state playoff match Thursday against Elba.

The struggles started with a 2-0 loss to McAdory in the championship game of the Mustang Invitational tournament.

Graham would swap the positions of two regular starters: Khadijah Craig to middle blocker and Savannah Kissel to outside hitter.

The pair performed well in their new roles and continued to be the team’s two best servers. Kissel leads the team with 137 aces on the year, and Craig isn’t far behind with 132 aces.

Another change came at setter. Amber Flanagan and Heather Posey began the year splitting time in the role. Both were often on the court at the same time, and the responsibility depended on what position they were in at the start of a point.

Flanagan missed time with an injury and illness in the middle of the year, forcing Posey to set full-time.

Flanagan has since returned to regular playing time, rotating with Kinslee Mims and Katelyn Ramsey in a serving position.

The Mustangs responded to the changes by winning their last five matches. In fact, they haven’t dropped a single set in four playoff matches.

“I’ve been really proud of this group,” Graham said. “Our sign in the locker room says, ‘Tradition never graduates.’ That’s what we preach to them.”

Isabella scheduled Thursday’s best-of-5 match against Elba for 1:30 p.m. so IHS students could attend and give the Mustangs a home court advantage.

“It certainly puts you in your comfort zone, not having to travel,” Graham said. “You get to play in front of your friends and your fans.”