Panthers off to great start thanks to powerful quartet
Published 10:46 am Saturday, September 16, 2023
The Lanett volleyball team is off to an 8-1 start to their season. The biggest part of that success is due to a powerful quartet leading the way.
Makia White, Laila Lancaster, Tamia Spratling and Chloe Jones have all been dominant forces for the Panthers.
Spratling has been the team’s primary setter this season with Jones, Lancaster and White being the three that get the kills at the net. Lancaster, Jones and White believe that there is an intimidation factor that they bring against each opponent.
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“We like to make sure we do good when we warm up,” White said. “When we get out on the court, we kind of already have them shaking a little bit even when we mess up.”
This start for the Panthers has been remarkable, but the girls do not want to take all of the credit. All four leaders believe that their improvement can be credited to their new assistant coach.
Sara Bauchman is an alumnus of Point University, and the girls believe that she has helped the team improve their fundamentals tremendously since joining the team.
As the primary setter on the team, Spratling knows exactly where she wants to put the ball to best set up the power hitters.
“When I set I try to set closer to the outside,” Spratling said. “Most of my sets go to four because I know I have a better hitter at four than I do at nine. I try to set the ball to the best hitter on the front row.”
Spratling is not just a setter though, she has added the ability to play above the net and get kills on her own this season.
“I think I’ve gotten better at the net,” Spratling said. “I’m able to block now and kill on overpasses more than I used to be.”
The goal set by Head Coach Krisse Story was for this team to win the area championship. Each girl in the powerful quartet mirrored that goal.
“I hope the area championship this year, and I feel like we’ve gotten a lot better than last year so hopefully we reach that goal,” Jones said.
The Panthers’ one loss this season came to Horseshoe Bend. The Generals beat Lanett last season as well to win the area championship.
The two teams do not face each other again in the regular season. Lanett has that much more motivation to beat Horseshoe Bend when it matters in the area tournament.
“It gives us more time to prepare and fix all the mistakes that we made,” White said. “We’ve just got to get revenge,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster and White are both stars on the basketball as well. Lancaster is currently committed to continue playing basketball at Auburn. Their love for basketball came first, but their love for volleyball has grown over the years.
White started playing volleyball in second grade, and she has always been around the game. Lancaster only began playing volleyball as a sophomore, but her height made her an immediate impact for the Panthers.
Both Jones and Spratling began playing volleyball in seventh grade. Since starting to learn the game, they both believe that their communication skills on and off the court have improved.
Between the three players that play at the net, Jones is the shortest. Still, she can outjump any opponent that the team faces. That ability is not something that Jones has to learn over time. It has come completely natural for her.
“I’ve always been able to jump high,” Jones said. “When I get the timing and stuff right that helps.”
Story has been the head coach since before any of the current players were in high school. Each girl has grown close to Story, and she has helped them grow along the way.
“I think she tries to push us to be the best that we can be,” White said. “She never gave up on us,” Jones said.
Before the season started last year, the team lost their assistant coach. Kawana Tucker had meant so much to the community and to the team. This season, the team hosted the Kawana Tucker Memorial Tournament, and the Panthers won it in her honor.
“I feel like it was a really big deal because I know how much KW really loved the sport of volleyball and she loved the team,” Lancaster said. “I feel like it was only right for us to win it for her.”