Ashville senior Emma Drinkard hasn’t played volleyball since her freshman year, but it only took coach Lindsay Sullivan one practice to realize her potential.
“She’s an outstanding athlete, and she’s going to be a defensive beast just from what I’ve seen yesterday and today,” Sullivan said July 12. “It’s like she hasn’t missed two years of playing.”
Drinkard’s return to the sport couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bulldogs, given the team is returning just two starters from last year’s squad, which finished 23-27.
Sullivan said the Bulldogs would definitely miss the heights of former Sera players Beth Potter (5-foot-10) and Whitney Goodwin (6-foot).
Sisters Molly and Lydia Northam, each 5-foot-10, will replace their height on the team this season. Molly missed last season with a knee injury that required surgery, but she’s been cleared to return to the field.
“Lydia is one of them, she’s going to be something else,” Sullivan said. “I already have a few college coaches reaching out to me.”
While Drinkard and the Northam sisters are all expected to play important roles for the team this season, the Bulldogs will no doubt rely on their two returning starters, including senior setter Rachel St. John. Sullivan said the eldest had no college experience until last season.
This showed at the start of the season as the passer at times struggled to adapt to the speed and skill displayed at the college level. This season, all eyes should once again be on St. John for a whole different reason.
“I consider her to be the player who improved the most last year, and she has evolved perfectly in the role of team captain,” Sullivan said.
St. John will be joined on the field by returning compatriot Zahkiyla Cook.
“She’s very versatile,” Sullivan said. “She hits, she is very good in defense. She just makes the important plays.
When Sullivan met Cook (now a junior) last year, the coach found her quiet. She preferred to let her play on the pitch speak for her. These days, Sullivan said Cook has come out of her shell and looks even more confident than ever.
“I have high expectations for her this year,” Sullivan said. “She can do anything I ask her to do on the pitch. It’s something as a coach. You rarely get that.
Sportswriter Tyler Waldrep: 256-299-2133. On Twitter: @tylerwaldrep