Lady Bulldogs have eye on playoffs

WHITE HALL — The White Hall volleyball team may have lost six seniors on an 8-12 team last year, but third-year coach Steven Powell is hoping for a .500 season and a shot at the Class 5A playoffs.

White Hall’s first match is today at home against Pulaski Robinson before the Lady Bulldogs travel to El Dorado on Thursday.

“We lost six players and we are going to miss those players, but we have a lot coming back that played a lot last year on the varsity team along with a couple of transfers,” Powell said. “If we can get over the .500 mark, I will be happy.”

This is the fifth year White Hall fields a volleyball team, and this will be the first year the Lady Bulldogs has an eighth-grade program.

“They will play an eighth grade schedule and next year we will have a completely separate ninth grade schedule,” Powell said. “There’s more progress every year until we get to the point where we are with everyone else in the state.”

White Hall could get its first taste of the state playoffs this year, too. The Lady Bulldogs compete in the 5A-South Conference, which is down to five teams. The top four teams from the conference earn a trip to the playoffs, something Powell thinks the team has a good shot at doing.

“If we can get going and beat a couple of teams, we will go to the state tournament,” he said. “It would be a nice thing to do. That is their number-one goal.”

Senior setter Marleigh Pearce agreed with Powell and said the expectations are high for the team this year.

“Most people may not think that, be we have been working really hard and I think we will do really great,” she said. “I think we will definitely be able to make the playoffs this year. We just have to play like we have been in practice.”

The team is ready for preseason practice to be over. White Hall has been practicing since the second week of July, according to Powell, and is ready to play a different team on the court.

“They are ready to beat on someone else besides each other,” he said.

Pearce is one of three seniors Powell is leaning on this year with the loss of so many players from last year. The other two are front row hitter Raya Bryant and back row player Halea Martin.

“I expect a lot out of them,” he said. “I talked with Marleigh the other day and told her I expect a lot out her and she has that goal of making the state tournament.”

Even with so many starters gone, the Lady Bulldogs have a good amount of experience returning since a lot of players saw time on varsity last year.

“We keep losing seniors every year and we lost our whole starting lineup basically, but this year, everyone has it down,” Pearce said. “Our junior varsity team was really, really good and we have grown as a team and as players.”

Pearce is putting a lot of responsibility on her shoulders since she is the setter, which is essentially the quarterback of the team. But she is ready to handle the pressure to help lead White Hall to the state tournament.

“I am pretty confident and I think I will do pretty well,” she said. “I set a lot last year on the varsity and junior varsity team. Just stick to what I know and just help the team out.”