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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka's Morgan Causey (1) goes for a kill during Friday's match against Sidney Lanier.

Fall sports teams were officially allowed to return to practice Monday but many volleyball programs are using the extra week to get an official evaluation period in after tryouts were canceled in the spring. Elmore County and Wetumpka are both holding tryouts this week as they are hoping to set their final rosters less than four weeks before the first matches arrive.

“We may be a bit behind schedule just because we haven’t been able to do what we have done in the past,” ECHS coach Kim Moncrief said. “By now, we normally know what our team is going to look like so it’s going to put us behind the gun a little bit.”

Volleyball teams will have to avoid the negative effects on the court but it does not stop there. Without getting an entire summer to hold team bonding events both on and off the court, there are some concerns with how new faces will fit with any returning players.

“It’s going to effect our team chemistry and a lot of their individual skill levels,” Wetumpka coach DeAnna Smith said. “They don’t get to work together as much. It’s definitely going to be a detriment.”

Players got to make up for some of the lost time during summer workouts but because those were just voluntary, the teams could not hold any evaluation period. Now, coaches are already seeing new names and faces at this week’s tryouts but they are making sure to give everyone a fair chance.

“We go into tryouts with an open mind,” Moncrief said. “The summer was just an opportunity to come in and work out, do some skills and some drills but we have some kids that have played before that did not get to come in already. It’s going to still be available to everybody. We have to be completely objective.”

While the summer workouts were not mandatory, the coaches are looking for players who have made improvements from the last time on the court. And whether it was with the team or on their own, it can be obvious when a player has put in the work during the offseason and coaches are hoping to see some of that in tryouts this week.

Smith said this year’s evaluation has to be different than the ones in years past because players need to already have some skills developed to contribute right away.

“Because of the late stage we’re in, you’re looking for girls who may be more athletic and that already have some skills,” Smith said. “If we had tryouts in May, there could be some girls who we thought had more potential and if we had more time to work with them, they may get more of a try. But with only three weeks to go, they have to be ready to play at this level right now.”

Fortunately for Smith, she has a strong returning core of players after losing just one senior. Wetumpka should bring back eight varsity players from last season’s area championship team and despite having a wild offseason, Smith is expecting a lot from her returning players.

“In the situation itself, it has taken away any confidence we might have had,” Smith said. “But I am certainly glad to have an established group of girls. I’m looking for them to show a positive attitude and for them to show some of the things they learned last year. They have to show they want to get better.”

Elmore County will have to replace a little bit more but expectations are still just as high as ever as the Panthers look to extend their streak of 10 consecutive area titles. Moncrief hopes the tryout period and preseason practices can help get the team there, but she knows it may not be until October until she sees the team she wants to see on the court.

“We’re still going to follow the rules and that’s going to be a little different. We’re just going to have to adapt,” Moncrief said. “It’s going to look a lot different from us at the beginning of the season than what we’re used to. We have to do a lot of playing to get where we want to be.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.