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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka’s lone senior Ryleigh Hamm (16) looks on as Khloe Harris rises to hit the ball over the net during Thursday’s play date at PCA.

When the new school year starts in August, the first competition for Wetumpka will not be held on the football field. The Wetumpka volleyball team starts its season at home Aug. 22 and the Indians hit the court exactly one month before the opener for a play date at Prattville Christian on Thursday.

“The goal of a day like today is to see where we’re weak and what we need to work on,” Wetumpka coach DeAnna Smith said. “We like to try out some new schemes and things we have done over the summer at practice. I just want to make sure what I’m seeing at practice is showing up on the floor.”

Wetumpka faced off against PCA, Alabama Christian and Prattville. It was the team’s second play date of the week after traveling to Montgomery Academy last Tuesday for a trio of matches. 

Smith said the Indians wanted to focus on their blocking game and court coverage at PCA but she saw several improvements across the board between the two trips last week. 

“I think the energy today was really good,” Smith said. “The energy on Tuesday wasn’t so they know as a team, they may need to work on that. Volleyball is a momentum sport so you have to control those lulls of energy.”

Smith specifically pointed to the second match of the day when Wetumpka faced the hosts and fell behind quickly. Despite it being just an exhibition, the Indians did not back down from the challenge.

“The fact that we got down early in that game but they rallied back, that shows me they’re willing to fight and they can find that energy when necessary,” Smith said. “You want to see more of that. That is something you always want to improve on.”

That was a focus for Wetumpka during workouts between play dates. Smith said there was talk about how to improve the Indians’ game on the court but at the end of the day, you have to have the right mindset to make an impact.

“We spent a lot of time between days talking about coverage and attitude,” Smith said. “I think we made some mistakes (Thursday) but I have certainly seen some improvement on being present at the net and being present mentally.”

While the team’s excitement was evident, there were still some early-season jitters which caused some easily avoidable mistakes. Opposing shots fell between multiple players watching the ball on a handful of plays during the match against PCA but Smith didn’t seem too worried about communication.

“Honestly, I really think it’s just an early season kind of thing,” Smith said. “This group, they all like each other and I don’t really have a lot of drama. They all support each other but I think it’s about all of them having to be a little bit more individual responsible.”

Smith said she wants to see players take charge and be more selfish when it’s needed, taking balls they think may belong to someone else. 

“Everyone is serving really well and we have some really good hitters at the front,” Smith said. “It’s just a matter of cultivating all of that talent.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.