Balanced Lady Hawks ready to start volleyball season

In her fourth year leading the South Side Lady Hawk volleyball team, Kimberly McNeal feels good about her team.

“On one hand, I’ve got the largest number of freshmen we’ve ever had on a varsity team since I’ve been coaching here with nine,” McNeal said. “So that means there’s been a lot of instruction over the summer about fundamentals and some of the more subtle parts about playing the game like the toss before your serve and aiming a pass to a certain point to set it up for the hitter.

“And for the second year in a row, we’ve been able to have a Middle Tennessee State University satellite camp here on our campus, and that puts our girls in a situation to receive college instruction, and also it’s good to know that a lot of the things they heard during the camp are a lot of the same things I’m telling them.”

While there are a high number of young players on the team, there’s actually a great deal of returning experience as well.

Three seniors – Kimora Currie, AliKate McDonald and J’Lynn Paige – lead a group that has four returning starters plus a returning libero who was in the rotation last year with a number of other players who’ve played significant minutes over the past couple seasons.

“I think this group having played together as much as it has the last couple years plus the work we’ve done this offseason has really made them seem to work really well together,” McNeal said. “They communicate well, but in some cases, they know each other so well, they don’t need to communicate because they know what they’re supposed to do and they do it.”

Their first game is on Tuesday against Liberty Tech, who’s not only a city rival but also now a foe in their new district – 12-AA. There are six other teams in the district – North Side, McNairy Central, Chester County, Hardin County, Scotts Hill and Lexington.

That’s 14 games already on the schedule if there’s a home-and-home series scheduled with each opponent.

That doesn’t give a lot of room for the Lady Hawks to schedule non-district games, but games with Trinity Christian and a tournament in Memphis that typically includes a number of good teams from across the state are on the schedule.

Brandon Shields,