Getting ready...

Graham volleyball senior captain Siearra Phillips, white shirt, explains a technique to the G-Girls during a practice session on Tuesday at the school. 


BLUEFIELD, Va. — The combination of teamwork, desire, experience, senior leadership — and, yes, height — has the Graham High School volleyball team thinking of a winning season this year.

“They’re really great about working together,” said Krystal Cantrell, the G-Girls’ second-year head coach. “They come together as a whole. ... They do show a lot of school spirit.”

Team captain Siearra Phillips, a senior, said, “I’m really excited. ... I really think we could have a winning season.”

“We have more experience, we work well together. We’ve been together so long. We have really good chemistry. We have a lot of girls who want to work hard and want to win.”

Cantrell said, “I have several girls coming to me and ask me if I don’t care to stay late, after practice — and I do, on occasions. And my middle school coach, Kat Kammer, she’s really good for staying late with them as well.” Kimberley Pannell has signed on as the new junior varsity coach.

The first test of the season comes this evening in West Virginia, playing the James Monroe Mavericks in Lindside.

The varsity squad includes five seniors, four juniors and two sophomores — twins Stephanie and Marissa Copolo. Two of the team’s new players are seniors, Cantrell said, “and we still have a lot that came back from last year.”

The seniors, she said, “do a really good job with (leadership). Usually, before we start our season and have tryouts, we do a two-a-day, kind of like a camp. My older girls are really good for getting the younger girls up to speed, and showing them how to hold their arms and to really get into position, and teach them anything, really, that they’re having troubles with.”

Phillips said that as a senior, You’ve got to encourage the girls in practice. Even if they mess up, you’ll tell them, ‘It’s all right ... you’ll do better next time.’ We tell them to stay focused. We’ve got to keep their heads straight — no goofing off.”

Cantrell said that Phillips is “one of the people who is really going to help us out. ... 

“She wanted to be my libero this year, but she’s also my best setter, so it’s really hard to take her off my front row. So I’m going to, hopefully, try to do something a little different this year and maybe try to get her into the back more often.”

In the Graham gym, Short is tall. Shayla Short and Jenna Bowling are the tallest members of the team, “and K.P. (Kathryn Perdue) is not too far behind,” Cantrell said. “So I’m going to have a pretty strong front row, because of the height.”

Perdue, also a senior, is the team’s co-captain.

Cantrell added, “We have a lot of team speed in the back.”

The Copolo twins provide speed, and an interesting choice for the coach to make.

“They’re great. No matter where I put them, they’re always moving their feet,” Cantrell said. “Right now, the twins, those are the two that I’m kind of looking at for (libero). It’s really hard to figure out which one’s better, because I’m looking at one for a setter position and one for the back-row position, the libero.

“Right now, neither of them want the setter’s position, they both want the libero, because they both love back row. So during practice I’m going to have to figure out which one’s a little bit better setting rather than back row.”

Phillips said that the G-Girls have been trying out new roles on the court. “It’ll be good for all of us to play other positions,” the captain said. She added that some of her teammates have played club volleyball beyond the regular season, and the experience shows.

“In games, you’ve got to think fast,” the senior said. “It’s good that they know who to get the ball to, and where to place the ball when you get it.”

Cantrell said, “Last year I had a really good group of girls, and I’m hoping to get the same work ethic out of the new ones this year.”

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