By JOEL COLEMAN
Some look at change as a problem. Others see new opportunities.
For Starkville High head volleyball coach Lauren Love, it's the latter scenario that she envisions for her Lady Yellowjackets as they begin the 2011 season today without six key individuals from last year's Class III, Region 2 runner-up squad.
"Every year presents new obstacles," said Love. "This year, as a team, we're choosing to look forward with what we have and just take care of who we have, when we have them and where we are."
Three SHS players from last year's group, a unit that finished with an overall record of 20-10, were lost to graduation.
Three more – Elizabeth Scott, Priyanka Parajuli and McKay Richardson – have transferred to other schools.
Scott left SHS for Heritage Academy in Columbus, Parajuli is now at the Mississippi School for Math and Science in Columbus, while Richardson moved to Virginia.
That leaves Love and her Lady Jackets with a host of newcomers that will have to step in and fill the holes all the departures left behind.
"Girls are getting opportunities that haven't really had the same kind of roles on the team that they have now," said Love. "People have been stepping up and filling in positions that otherwise may not have had the opportunity to fill those positions."
Though several players have seen their roles increase, Love says no one has seemed intimidated or overwhelmed with the new challenges.
"I haven't heard anyone express any concern," said Love. "Team dynamics change yearly and so far, they've all been out on the court laughing. They've been out on the court hustling and just playing together. Everyone just seems really excited for the season to come around."
Though there is plenty of new blood on the SHS varsity scene, Love isn't completely depleted of veteran leadership with four returning starters still in the fold.
Seniors Wheeler Richardson, Grace Drumheller and Margaret Allison all return, as does freshman Khristian Carr.
Love hopes her returning foursome can provide the leadership necessary for a return to the postseason.
"We want to be aggressive, be defensive and play together," said Love. "I think we've seen that already in our practices and I'm just looking forward to seeing it out on the volleyball court in competition when the season starts."
Starkville's campaign opens up today with a pair of games at Ridgeland High School as part of the Set It Off Challenge.
The Lady Jackets face Our Lady Academy at 2:30 p.m. before taking on DeSoto Central at 7:30 p.m.
Depending on the results of today's games, Starkville will continue play in the season-opening event on Saturday.
The Lady Jackets' first home game of the year is scheduled for August 15 against Heritage Academy.
However, in keeping with this year's theme of change, that match will be away from the Starkville High gym.
With SHS installing an air conditioning system in the Beehive, the Lady Jackets are currently scheduled to play and practice in the Starkville Sportsplex gym.
Once again, Love says her team must simply make the best of yet another transition.
"I'm trying to keep all that in mind in my coaching plan," said Love. "We just have to keep working hard, which we have already been doing."