By Chris Parker
Hurley won 15 matches in coach Laken Walden’s first season as the head coach last year. This year the Lady Tigers are looking for even more with three all-conference players and four seniors returning.
First-team all-conference setter Hailey Chamberlain returns to trigger the attack for the Lady Tigers.
“Hailey is the rock to my team and going on her second year as the team captain,” Walden said. “Our main focus this summer has been working on speed and a quick release. I couldn’t ask for a better player to coach. She will send me videos of her going to the gym or weight room by herself, or dragging along her freshman sister Mylee Chamberlain to hit. I put a lot on her shoulders whether its calling the hits or being my voice out on the court.”
Chamberlain will be doing a lot of setting for second-team all-conference returner Paige Simpson at middle hitter.
“Paige is one of the quickest hitters I have ever coached. When setter, Hailey Chamberlain, and her get their rhythm right, she is unstoppable. As soon as Paige steps on the court you can see her facial expression change and she’s ready to go to battle,” Walden said. “She is always up for a challenge whether it’s a new hit or attacking a certain area. Paige isn’t just a skilled player but is mentally smart about ball placement and attacks. I know I can count on her to put the ball away in stressful situations.”
Honorable mention outside hitter/utility player Samantha Hall is the final returning all-conference player for Hurley.
“She was honorable mention last year but really deserves more. She does all the behind the scenes and, what I call, hustle work. When you think a ball is down or out of reach Sammie comes out of know where to keep the game going. She is that kid that never gives up and will do whatever she can to get the win,” Walden said.
Hailey White was a defensive specialist last year, but she will be shifting to a six-rotation role this year. Freshman Mylee Chamberlain will be an outside and middle hitter. She is the younger sister of Hailey.
“With her sister as her biggest critic, Mylee has been in the gym all summer working on hits and passing,” Walden said. “I have high expectations for her and I know she can be a crucial piece in our team’s success this season. Like any freshman she really needs a confidence boost in her abilities.”
Walden added veteran coach Brett Moody to her staff this year. Walden played against Moody’s Hurley squads when she at Crane. His presence brings something extra for Hurley this year.
“There is a whole new atmosphere this year on the bench and in the gym,” Walden said. “As the girls say, he (Moody) brings the old school and I bring the new school style to the court. It’s a great pair.”
Walden has high expectations for her team in the second year with a senior-laden squad.
“Being my second year with the Lady Tigers they know my style of play and what my expectations are,” Walden said. “Being a senior-heavy team they know it’s now or never this season. I really think we have a chance to make a run at the conference title and be playing late October. For these seniors this is the season they have been dreaming about their entire lives and I am anxious to see what they can do with this mentality late season.”
Hurley will host a jamboree on Aug. 21 before opening the season on Aug. 24 at Fordland.