By Chris Parker
Hillcrest is coming off of a six-win season and must replace its two all-conference selections with the graduations of Lakin Barrett and Jocelyn Tidwell. Barrett was First-Team All-Ozark Conference while Tidwell was honored on the second team.
“It is no secret that I will miss their athletic ability, but the hardest thing to replace about great seniors is the leadership,” Hillcrest head coach Robin Collins said. “Right now it is looking like we will not have a senior in the program. Youth is exciting but at the varsity level experience is important.”
Jolene Tidwell is the top returning hitter for the Lady Hornets after a 117-kill sophomore season. She has been a middle hitter in the past but will be moving to the outside this season.
“We will depend a lot on Jolene this season. I have a great relationship with her, as she is also an outstanding track athlete for me in the spring. There is often a noticeable confidence difference in an athlete who also participates in an individual sport. Jolene is competitive, coachable and values her teammates,” Collins said.
Hillcrest will switch from a 5-1 to a 6-2 this year to allow both Madison Letterman and Cassidy Pentecost to get time at setter. They have big shoes to fill as Barrett accounted for 414 of 434 assists last season. Lettermen was the only other player in double-figure assists at 14.
Ashley VanHorn has the inside track to the starting libero position. Tyshira Love will play right side and opposite in her in junior season. Freshman Paige Durham has proven to be an impact hitter over the summer. Sophomores Macy Baker and Audrey Fountain will look to provide depth at hitter.
Collins will hope to get her young team acclimated to the varsity game and make a run in the conference and postseason.
“The Ozark Conference is always a tough call in volleyball. We have a lot of pieces that need to come together, but with dedication and commitment I believe we could be in top half of the conference,” Collins said. “Our district, which has had Willard dominating, has seen three different match ups in the finals in the last three years. This shows the increasing competitiveness of our district. I think we will be a competitive opponent by district time.”
Hillcrest opens the season on Aug. 28 at home against Willow Springs.