School has only been out for a few weeks, but already GHS head volleyball coach Jennifer Golden is thinking about the upcoming season after coming up one victory short of the 5A state title last fall.
In the meantime, Golden is busy this week preparing for Friday’s Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star game in Conway. She was named to coach the West team after earning Coach of the Year honors in the 5A West and leading her team to the state finals with an overall record of 30-6-1.
Under Golden’s leadership the Lady Bulldogs have become a perennial powerhouse in high school volleyball in Arkansas, winning two state titles and playing for several others. The team has enjoyed three consecutive 30-win seasons.
After this week Golden plans to spend more time relaxing with her family before the pre-season grind begins in earnest in July.
“We’re kind of in a dead period right now,” she said. “We don’t do a whole lot in June. I still have kids playing club [ball]. After [the] fourth of July is when we start up. We haven’t done much of anything since school was out.”
But according to the longtime Greenwood coach, her players were plenty busy with off-season work before classes ended in May.
“It was pretty good,” she said. “We were just doing a lot of scrimmaging and getting to know each other with the ninth grade mixing in with practices. We got a lot of scrimmaging done [and] a lot of good, quality reps on the court.”
The Lady Bulldogs return several experienced players next season, but will be missing one key player, outside hitter Zoie Benton, who suffered a knee injury during the off-season and may not be able to play during her senior year. Benton was second on the team in kills in 2018.
“That definitely hurts, but we’re not going to count ourselves out by any means,” said the coach. “It’s going to be a little bit of a new dynamic and we’ve got a big slot to fill, but I think I’ve got kids that will take care of it.
“I’m very excited about who we have coming back,” Golden added. “We have quite a bit of starters that played in that state championship match last year.”
One of the team’s top returning players is senior middle hitter Camryn Presley, who led the team in kills (324) and blocks (130) last season. Presley was also second on the team in assists with 468.
“I’ve got a pretty strong lineup,” Golden said. “Camryn’s a three-year starter going into her senior year, so she’s excited and we’re excited to have her and that leadership coming back.
“We also have a couple of back-row returners with Izzy Davis and Josie Chapple, who are both still playing (club volleyball) right now.” Both girls are seniors.
“I’ve got [junior] Larkin Luke coming back in the middle, who had a really good off-season, and [junior] Anna Johnson, my setter. I feel like we’re well-rounded. As far as our lineup goes, it’s looking pretty solid.”
Davis led the team in digs (501) last season and in service aces (39). Johnson was the squad’s assist leader with 584.
After Independence Day the Lady Bulldogs will participate in the annual FASDOGS conditioning program for the remainder of July. They will also spend four days practicing at a major team camp at Missouri State University in Springfield later this summer.
“That’s always a really good time,” Golden said of her team’s annual trip to Southwest Missouri.
“That’s where we get a lot of our lineup looks and piecing people in and making sure we look at all the different dynamics the team has to offer – looking at all the different lineups that are possible.
“That just gives us a really good look at what the future could be,” she added.
The Lady Bulldogs begin the regular season with a match at home on August 26th against the Lady Purple Dogs of Fayetteville.