NH girls have challenge of repeating last year's success
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 21, 2004 - BIRTHRIGHT - After winning district in every girls sport last school year, North Hopkins starts the 2004 district volleyball season with the tough task of trying to repeat that success.

Last season, a strong senior class helped the Lady Panthers sweep through the district seasons in volleyball, basketball, softball and track, not to mention a state championship in cross country.

At this time last year, NH volleyball coach Danna Lewis had five senior starters. This year, she has just one in Sara Weir, but she likes the athletic ability of her team as they open the District 19-A schedule tonight against Cumby.

They are 9-8, with four of their losses coming to Sulphur Bluff, which has the best record in the area with a 15-1 mark.

"I feel pretty confident. I think the girls feel pretty good," Lewis said. "We're practicing hard. They've got a good work ethic. There's no 'lose' mentality, and that always helps."

Among her group are two All-State basketball players in Weir and junior Katy Williams, a state runner-up in the high jump in sophomore Ebbonye Johnson, and several members of the defending state champions in cross country including Kate Hollenshead.

Rounding out the starting six are juniors Maegan Baxter, Tashona Berry and Ashley Wilson. Berry and Wilson were both second team all-district players last season.

But, they face one of the district's top teams in Cumby immediately. The Lady Trojans are led by Megan Strickland, who should have quite a duel with NH's Williams at the net.

"Boles and Cumby are supposed to be the two tough teams in the district to beat. We're going to have to move our feet well," Lewis explained. "Cumby scrambles, and they're hustlers. They can hit the ball pretty well, so we've got to move our feet."

She's depending on Weir and Johnson to help out Williams at the net.

"Sara is hitting the ball better right now that she has all year," Lewis said. "Katy had 16 kills the other night, and Ebbonye's stepping up and hitting pretty well. She's a surprise hitter. She's only about 5-3, but she can jump, we all know that after getting second at state in the high jump as a freshman. She can jump, and she can hit them down."

Whoever wins tonight will get a jump in the district race, as only two teams advance to the playoffs in Class A. Also in the district is Yantis and Miller Grove.

Last year, North Hopkins was considered the district favorite. This season, Lewis isn't so sure.

"I don't know if people are taking us seriously," she said. "But, we had a good non-district schedule, and I think we're ready to play."

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