Arkansas-Pine Bluff volleyball coach Kyetta May is usually worn out after her first week of August practices.
This year was different.
“I was telling one of our players last week,” she said. “Usually after the first week I’m drained and tired. I’m usually having to work every day manning the trenches getting everybody in that mindset.
“This year the team has already bought in, and I think the program can kind of run itself.”
The team has only been practicing a week and a half ahead of its opening tournament at Southern Miss on Aug. 29-30, but it seems as though the difference in what is now May’s third season at UAPB is an innate competitive nature.
Seniors Jordan Foyer and Ashlie Jones feel that way and think it will lead to an improvement on last year’s 13-23 campaign.
“The competition level in practice is phenomenal,” Foyer said. “It’s the best we’ve had and we’ve been together all four years.”
“Everybody has the same intensity,” Jones said. “They’re never complaining.”
Foyer and Jones are just two of the players who have shown the leadership abilities May said she was looking for out of her returning players.
“The ones that are coming back I asked to set the tone,” May said. “They’ve stepped up. … They’ve really brought great leadership this year.”
She added that she’s been impressed with the leadership out of the newcomers.
“As far as the newcomers go, they’ve brought a necessary energy,” May said. “They’ve brought leadership, too. All of these newcomers can be leaders.”
Jones, who led the Lady Lions in kills (2.39) and aces (0.40) per set last year, said the energy the newcomers have brought in has been exciting.
“There’s a sense of energy in the group,” the outside hitter said. “Last year it used to be just here and there, but now it’s a consistent energy.”
Foyer, who as setter led UAPB with 846 assists (7.83 per set) last year, said she likes that the newcomers can “back it up with their actions.”
Foyer and Jones — the team’s only seniors — are hoping the incoming players can help them end their career on a positive note. The duo know what it takes becasue they have experienced success together — just not at UAPB.
In 2011, Foyer and Jones won a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship at Kentucky State with May as coach. The two transferred to UAPB after May took the job prior to the 2012 season.
Foyer said she feels like this team has all the holes filled that opponents were able to exploit last year. Because of that, Foyer thinks it could be a special year for the Lady Lions.
“(The newcomers) know we won a ring before,” Foyer said referring to the SIAC title. “We told them this team can be that good, too. We told the new girls, ‘You all could really help us.’
“We think all the pieces are together here.”