The return of the Panther Pride could be a theme of the Rappahannock girls’ volleyball team this season.
“We have a lot of returning girls,” Maddie Kopjanski said. “A few are back from varsity, but now there are a lot of JV girls on varsity. The good thing is that we’ve played together for so long. It’s easy to remember how your teammates play.
“Our team really seems like a little family,” said Kopjanski, a sophomore. “A lot of us girls go out to eat at the [Country] Cafe or something before a home game. All these pockets of conversation go on and we just jump from one conversation to another. Last time, we even went outside and took some pictures in front of the fountain. In Rappahannock, this time of year, the volleyball team is like our family. We can turn to each other for homework help or just someone to talk to if you’re having a bad day.”
This year’s varsity captains are seniors Bryn Sonnett and Haley Hogan. “They’re doing really well,” Kopjanski said. “They are definitely leading our team. They’re always there to help us in the midst of a tough spot during the game, especially in a huddle to get us pumped up.”
Rappahannock has always been eager to display its hitting prowess, and this season will be no different. “We have good hitters again this year,” Kopjanski said. “It’s just a matter of getting the ball to them. Most of the hitters can pretty much place where they want the hit to go. Our whole goal is to move snake-like to follow the ball and mesh our flow to work as a team.”
In their fourth preseason contest, the Panthers fell at Warren County, 3-0. “The game went well,” coach Tiffany Seal said. “In the first game, Warren played the net extremely well and our girls got scored on. In the second two games, we held our own.
“Paige Paul had a fantastic game with back row hits and several fantastic serves. Kaitlyn [Jenkins], Bryn, Peyton [Bailey] and Maddie all had a few spikes that scored for us,” Seal said. “Shelby [Burnett] did a great job as a hitter. As always, our libero, Amber [Dodson], and our other specialty back row player, Katie, held up strong and kept the girls covered well. Plenty of defense kept the game going strong.
“Our setters Lyndie [Paul] and Haley [Hogan] did a fantastic job setting. Lyndie had a spike that scored out of nowhere. Haley did a great job at back row hitting. Overall, the award for consistency and saving the day went to Paige Paul,” Seal said. “In the last two games, we were unsure of who would win. Unfortunately, we did not. The ladies have full potential.”
Tuesday night, the Lady Panthers traveled to East Rockingham to face the Eagles. In a disappointing outcome of 30, there was still something to celebrate – at least from one player’s perspective. “I played back row,” Kopjanski said, ”and was able to get to a lot of the balls they served at us. They had a really good hitter and did some tipping, too. I did a lot better than I expected, since I haven’t played back row for three years. Plus, Haley Hogan really charged us up in the huddle during a down time.”
The Panthers are coached by newcomer Seal, who is also a new teacher this year at Rappahannock Elementary. Her team’s preseason record stands at 1-4 with tons of team spirit ready to turn the tide. Rappahannock’s next challenge will be at home against Skyline Tuesday (Sept. 6). A JV game begins at 6 with varsity play starting at 7.