Spain Park volleyball enters season hungry to improve, go further

Published 12:24 pm Thursday, August 17, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Spain Park has a long tradition of success on the volleyball court, and that continued last season when the Jags went undefeated in area play and went to the Super Regionals.

That tradition isn’t lost on Spain Park coach Kellye Bowen or any of her players. Now, the 2023 Jags are finding out how they will fit into that legacy.

“Now that you have a tradition, I think it’s trying to hold on to that tradition and maintain it,” Spain Park coach Kellye Bowen said. “I think that that’s hard. You’re trying to live up to tradition, and sometimes you’ve got to create your own legacy. And I think that that’s what they’re trying to do is try to create their own type of legacy by the time they leave.”

The Jags have multiple returning starters from last year’s team, including Megan Ingersoll and outside hitter Reagan Gilbert, but overall, they have a very young core that Bowen is excited to see how they fit into each spot on the floor. She believes they have multiple players who will play through all six rotations and have enough stamina to make an impact throughout the game.

Senior defensive specialist Grace Devlin, sophomore setter Cailyn Kyes and junior middle blocker Alexa Benda were three players who Bowen was excited about as developing stars who could have a fantastic season because of how much they will contribute to the team.

Bowen believes that all of the time that the younger players have spent together has improved their chemistry, which she believes is one of their biggest strengths.

“I just think that they’re a lot of fun to be around, and I think that they really enjoy each other. And I think that that’s one thing as a team, when you’re going into the season, you’re going, ‘okay, I don’t know how this is going to go.’ This team, they’re very loyal to each other, which is a good thing–you want to have your teammate’s back going into a match. And I think that they do that. They’ve done a really good job of that over the summer.”

Part of how they are becoming a better team is by encouraging everyone to become a better individual player. Bowen knows how crucial each piece and every little improvement is to their success every year, and the Jags have been working all offseason to get better in every aspect of the game.

“Even in our previous years, we tried to get 1% better every single day,” Bowen said. “I told the girls this week, ‘a better you means a better us,’” Bowen said of her message to the team. “’So, if you’re working individually on your craft and then we bring it together, then that makes us a better unit.’”

The Jags will need every percent that they can get because they will face a difficult schedule once again. They will take on a loaded area that includes Hewitt-Trussville, Oak Mountain and Chelsea, and they have a non-area schedule befitting of one of the top teams in the state.

Even with their successes in previous years, Spain Park still comes to practice determined and focused to be the best they can be. After reaching Super Regionals last year and coming within a set of going further in the tournament, they are hungry and ready for the challenges that they will face this season.

“I think the biggest thing is staying humble and staying hungry,” Bowen said. “I think you can get complacent when you get to the position where you say, ‘we’re a good team and we’re supposed to be good.’ Well, I think that’s really, in the end, what bites you in the foot, when you’re complacent, when you’re not hungry, you’re not working. And I don’t feel like that’s where we’ve been. I think we’ve been working. I think we’ve been staying after it, so hopefully we stay with that course.”