Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher
Photos Courtesy of PCA Volleyball
CENTRAL ALABAMA SCOREBOARD OFFICE – Expectations are high coming into the 2021 season for Prattville Christian Volleyball as they advanced to the Class 3A Semifinals losing 3-2 to Houston Academy. The third-place finish (a three-game sweep of Thomasville) did nothing but give the Panthers a taste of things to come.
“I hope that motivates us to get back there, or even further,” said PCA Coach Kaylon Cantrell. “We have a lot of competitors on our team. They work hard and they want to win. I feel like they will do whatever it takes to get us back to state.”
Getting back to the dance is going to be a daunting task as their area includes Montgomery Catholic and defending 3A Champions Trinity.
Cantrell: “We don’t have huge numbers on the varsity roster, but we have a lot of heart and grit. We have strong returners and new young talent. I feel like we have great team chemistry, and that will take us far. This is a special group of girls who also love to compete. They work had for each other every time they’re on the court. I know we have what it takes to get back to the state tournament. We have a very tough area, so it’s not an easy road. But our girls are willing to do what it takes, so I’m excited to watch them develop and play competitive volleyball this season.”
One advantage the Panthers will have this season – that could be the deciding factor later – is the summer prep that was absent during the Pandemic Protocols shutdown.
This summer, in Cantrell’s eyes, is night and day difference compared to 2020.
She explains: “The Covid regulations really limited what we were able to do. We had not been able to hold tryouts, so we didn’t officially have teams decided, so we had varsity players practicing with JV, and we weren’t able to really start developing that ‘team chemistry’ until the end of the summer and start of the regular season.”
This summer – according to the coach – was completely different as PCA was able to set the teams in May and get in the gym to start developing a gameplan. With the protocols lifted Prattville Christian and, teams across the state really, were able to bring some sort of normalcy to the preseason attending camps and playdates.
Cantrell: “It’s always nice to see how other schools look before the season starts; but more than anything it allows us to get a feel for what our own team’s strengths and weaknesses are. We are going to team camp at the University of North Alabama later this week. This will be our first year attending their camp, so we are looking forward to it. We are also planning to play in a couple of play dates around the area later in the month. Both the play dates and the team camps will allow us to try out different rotations and combinations of players before the games actually count.”
So who are going to be the key Panthers Cantrell is going to look to this season”
Cantrell highlighted her seniors Ella Jane Connell, Jamie Johnson and Naomi Taake.
“I also anticipate Hannah Jones (junior) to be a key player for us this season. All of these player have been contributors on the varsity team for three or more years now so they know what is expected and they know what it takes to be successful at this level. We lost four seniors this past year, and they will definitely be missed. Those four really helped develop this program and make it what it is today. But we are also blessed with some young talent, and I feel like these new varsity players are going to be able to step in and fill the roles that we need them to fill this season.”
The Panthers start the season going full tilt boogie tangling with Alabama Christian (August 19), a tri-match with Montgomery Catholic and Smiths Station (August 21) and then the Mayor’s Cup Tournament at the Crampton Bowl Multiplex (August 27-28).
Cantrell: “We start things off pretty tough. I also just try to schedule as many games as we can leading up to regular season area play so (by that point) we’ve seen a lot and had a chance to work out some kinks.”
The ability to play in tournaments this season (Northridge on September 11 and then Jasper October 1) will give PCA the chance to expand their opposition research even further by seeing and competing against teams outside the Central Alabama norm.
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