Arab varsity volleyball team

Members of the Arab varsity volleyball team, from left, front: Alyssa Jones, Madie Garrett, Jodi Drain, Ella Claire Beard, Ella Ingram and Hensley Elrod; back: assistant coach Shelby Brothers, assistant coach Steve Flack, Allie Isom, Tristen White, Karli Walker, Moree McDonald, Brooke Selvage and head coach Jamiee Moran.

New Arab volleyball coach Jamiee Moran can’t really say her team lost four key seniors to graduation, including the great Anna Katherine Griggs, but the team she inherited in May from outgoing coach Cassie Mullinax has to find a way to fill some big shoes.

Moran, entering her first season as a varsity head coach, said she is ready for the challenge. The varsity and junior varsity teams start play Thursday with tri-matches at Geraldine. The Arab teams play at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. The third team in the mix is Fort Payne.

The Lady Knights also play in the Good Hope Tournament on Saturday (see Arab’s tournament schedule in the local sports calendar on page 10B).

When she was introduced as the new coach in May, Moran said she was eager to fill the footsteps of former coaches Bobby Daniels his daughter, Mullinax. Both reached the Final Four and, except for one rebuilding season, had Arab in the upper echelons of the Class 5A rankings.

Moran isn’t backing down from the challenge. She wants to get Arab back to the state finals and maybe go even higher.

“All our varsity players have varsity experience,” she said. “Tristen White hasn’t played for two years but she is returning to finish out her senior year.

“All of them are important to this team.”

There are stars returning, including senior setter Allie Isom, senior libero Jodi Drain and freshman sensation Karli Walker, who has high school experience and will be the team’s starting middle blocker/hitter.

It’ll take a group effort to make up for the loss of one star who is not returning: AK. The 6-foot-2 Griggs has taken her talents to the University of North Alabama after finishing a career at Arab that included 1,768 career kills, 212 aces, 458 blocks, 283 digs, seven assists and many regional and state awards.

But Moran can’t miss what she personally never had. And she’s comfortable with that. She said she’s had great support from the administration and parents and feels good about the work ethic and effort she’s seen of her players in summer workouts and now preseason practice.

“We’ve been working on defense and not letting balls hit the floor,” Moran said. “As a team, we’ve been working on defensive drills a lot.

“One player asked when were we going to work on hitting the ball. I’m trying to stress it is defense that wins games. We want to tire the other team out by keep putting the ball into play and then let them make a mistake.

“And they’re starting to buy into that. I’ve seen a bunch of improvement with our ball control.”

The early schedule includes some games against seemingly inferior competition. That doesn’t matter, Moran said.

“I want them to stay focused no matter who we play,” she said. “We need to concentrate on our side of the net. We need to focus on ourselves and get better every day.”

Arab’s first home matches are Tuesday, Aug. 27, against Fairview and DAR.

Other members of the varsity squad are Alyssa Jones, Madie Garrett, Ella Claire Beard, Ella Ingram, Hensley Elrod, Moree McDonald and Brooke Selvage.

The JV team, coached by newcomer Shelby Brothers, includes Allison Ray, Emma Donahue, Molly Bishop, Caylee Hilyer, Heather Skelton, Tatum Monroe, Libby Wright, Anna McFerrin, Mary Kate Hallman, Josselyn Kalber and Kelsey Stockton.

Steve Flack returns as an assistant coach.

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