Helena heads into first season under Amanda Livingston with high expectations

Published 5:26 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HELENA – The Helena Huskies have a fresh start with a new coach in Amanda Livingston, and they are aiming to be one of the best teams in the area and compete for state glory.

“We go in every day and I just preach to them about, what is our end game? What is our goal?” Livingston said. “And we want to make it to the Elite Eight. We’ve set high expectations for ourselves, and so we’re going to work hard every day to try to get to that.

Livingston came from Tuscaloosa County, who the Huskies actually beat twice last season, and she has worked quickly to build chemistry with her players and discover their identity as a team.

“The girls are getting to know me, and I’m getting to know them,” Livingston said. “I was board-approved on a Thursday, met the girls on a Friday and then had tryouts the next week. So, it’s been kind of fast-paced, but it’s been good. It’s been a smooth transition.”

Part of the reason why it has been a smooth transition is because of the talented roster she has taken over. Many of Helena’s key players are back from last season, and Livingston believes this is a well-rounded team with depth and talent from top to bottom.

The offense will be led by Addison Dockery, who will handle the bulk of Helena’s swings from the outside in her junior year. On the other side, Marie Jones will look to take a big leap as a sophomore, and Livingston is excited to see her develop.

Kylie Scoles will be the floor general at the setter spot, and over the summer, Livingston has seen her leadership flourish. She is quick to spot and solve problems on the court without waiting around for Livingston to make an adjustment, and she rallies the team together.

In addition, look for Monroe Bouler to be a key contributor even though she is just a freshman and potentially become one of the best underclassmen in the area. Livingston has also been impressed by the work that Haylie Deifenderfer has put in ahead of her senior season, as well as by the versatility that sophomore backup setter Maddie Morris has shown when put in positions around the court.

That type of versatility has been a staple of Helena volleyball in the past, but Livingston wants to focus more on each player’s specialty so they can become the best at their position.

“I think in years past, they’ve played a lot of multiple positions and roles, and we’re kind of not. We’re focusing on, if you’re an outside hitter, you’re going to be an outside hitter or, if you’re a libero, we’re going to put you on the libero and really hone in on those positions and develop them really strong there.

Her goal is to play an up-tempo style while relying on their strong defense, which comes from the energy and effort that the Huskies have shown on the court that has really impressed Livingston.

“They are a scrappy team,” Livingston said. “Balls that you would think people would not go for or they would give up on, this team will run it down, run you over, knock over a score table to get to it to try to get that point,” Livingston said. “They’ve got grit. They don’t give up easily. They’re fighting for every point. So, I think that’s a huge strength to have.”

Those points saved come from a strong volleyball knowledge and IQ that should be one of the team’s strengths going into this season.

Their knowledge and toughness will both come into play throughout Helena’s difficult schedule this year. The Huskies finished with an 18-15 record last season and were knocked out by Briarwood in the first round of the area tournament, and the goal is to go much further than that this year and even aim to host the area tournament.

Achieving their goals won’t be easy, but Livingston and the entire Huskies team believe in themselves and know what they are capable of.

They are a very unified team, and so far they have shown that when their backs are against the wall, they become better, and those will be key to getting Helena where they want to be this season.

“I think they’re seeing that they can be pushed, and when they are pushed, they’re seeing results,” Livingston said. “They’re really buying in, and that’s really been big for me.”