BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Lady Hounds volleyball team got caught in the coronavirus net out of the gate this year and hit the gym for the first time in two weeks on Saturday.
Head Coach Kent Bailey said the girls will lean on some experience and athleticism to compete to try and compete for a Southeast Conference win this year.
The Bloodhounds finished second in the Southeast in 2019 with a 6-3 mark behind champs Burlington who finished perfect at 11-0. The Hounds struggled outside loop play and finished the year with a 15-24 mark.
This year’s squad will be anchored by third year started Lauren Bailey, a senior who led Fort Madison with 551 assists and 252 digs a year ago. But the Hounds lose Class 4A Southeast All-District Jillian Wiseman who had a solid year at the net with 382 kills and 33 blocks.
Kent Bailey said the competition is pretty heavy for middle and outside hitter roles, with Bailey locking up her role in the middle of the offense.
“Lauren’s coming back as a two-year starter and her third as the setter. The rest of the kids feel very comfortable with her in that role,” Bailey said.
“We’ve got three vying for outside hitter with Logan Johnson, a junior, and two seniors in Reyna Lampe and Kylee Cashman, and there’s a good competition there right now.
Lampe is a jumper at just 5’4″ hitting from the corner. She had 445 attacks last year as a junior, and recorded 99 kills, which was second best on the squad. Cashman had 21 kills on 112 attacks last year. Johnson played sparingly last year in just 17 sets, but had 10 kills in 52 attacks.
Bailey said Johnson’s coming off a solid year of softball and is gaining confidence.
“Logan came in in very good shape. She’s looked good. I wouldn’t put her heads and tails above everybody else, but she’s one that’s surprised me so far,” Bailey said.
In the middle, the Hounds will be looking to seniors Kailyn Guzman and Lauren King, and junior Eve Ruble, with junior Alaina Simpson and Cashman battling for the other outside hitter spot.
Guzman was a starter as a junior last year and had 83 kills from the middle.
Bailey said King has been another surprise and has hit well as middle net in limited practices.
In the back and working for the libero and defensive specialists spots are seniors Nadia Boeding, Taylor Barnes, Ally Helmick and Kendall Beebe, and a junior Maddy Pirri.
Coach Bailey said the coronavirus pandemic has taken it’s toll on aspects of the Hounds preseason preparation, but he said the girls are relying on experience and athleticism to carry them through.
“We lost two solid weeks of practice and a tournament on Saturday where we would hae picked up six matches,” Bailey said.
“And then we would have been playing Fairfield this week and it got pushed back a couple weeks.”
“It’s had its impact, but it’s impacting others as well. But our kids got enough open gyms so they know the basic ideas of what we want to do. It’s now just getting those muscles back where they need to be.”
Lauren Bailey said with the two weeks lost, the team is just looking to play hard and work together, because they don’t know how long the season could last.
“We just want to go out and play our hardest and compete,” the senior said. “We want to play like it’s our last game every game, because we just don’t know.”
Coach Bailey said the conference will probably favor Fairfield again as a perennial power, but Burlington surprised everyone last year with their athleticism. But he said things have evened out and the Bloodhounds have enough experience to run at the title.
“We feel confident with our experience with our kids that have played a lot of volleyball,” Coach Bailey said. “Fairfield is always good, and Burlington is the defending champions and they’re gonna battle. Then obviously, Washington Mt. Pleasant, and Keokuk keep improving every year.”
The Bloodhounds are schedule to start the year on Saturday at a tournament at Burlington Notre Dame. The Hounds open the home season Tuesday with a visit from Burlington.