by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — A year removed from the start of a rebuilding process, the Franklin Academy volleyball team is striving to move another step or two forward in 2013.
The Patriots return most of last year’s roster to a young team that finished 6-9 overall and 4-8 in the Carolina 12 1A Conference.
Playing this season in the new North Central Athletic Conference, experience will be one of Franklin Academy’s biggest strength.
“This season we have far more experience to build from and serve as a foundation for skill development and leadership,” said the Patriots second-year coach Jacklyn Cox. “Last season we had a group of sophomores that were talented but lacked varsity level game experience.”
Cox has several returning players and some promising young freshmen. The roster includes just one senior, five juniors, two sophomores and six freshmen.
“Surprisingly, I kept six freshmen this year, (doubled from last season),” Cox said. “I am impressed with their capabilities, especially with hitting and their fundamentals.”
Cox knows the transition from the middle school volleyball tempo to the high school pace will take some time. However, she believes the team has enough talent to become a united team and gain strength as the season progresses.
“I believe it will be a smooth transition,” she said, “and I am expecting great things from each one of my players, including the freshmen.”
The Patriots lost starting setter Alicia Paeplow, who is now playing at Wake Tech.
“That loss hurts and I haven’t decided on a replacement,” Cox said. “I will be working with four players that have the possibility of replacing her.”
The lone senior, Baylee Bridgland is a confident middle, however.
“Despite her size, she packs a power hit,” she said.
The Patriots will also be counting on juniors Arissa Rohrs, who plays outside/right side, middle Brianna Schmid, outside setter Taylor Rice, libero Emily Andrews and right side/setter Lauren Smith.
“Arissa is so easy to coach that putting her anywhere on the court will be easy,” Cox said. “Brianna has improved leaps and bounds from her first season last year and I think our competition will be surprised that she is the same middle hitter from last year.”
Cox said she has also seen improvement from Rice, Andrews and Smith.
“I am working with Taylor to develop her setting placement this year,” Cox said. “Emily is my libero and has insightful court awareness that is a beneficial trait in a captain. Lauren is a hard worker and is also trying to develop her setting skills.”
Sophomores Meredith Bond and Molly Northcutt will also contribute.
“Meredith has improved tremendously from last year in the middle position, especially improving her timing and placement,” Cox said.
“Molly played with impressive composure last season as a freshman, so I am excited to see her mature into her sophomore year.”
The freshmen on the team are Joy Rhodes, Caitlyn Paeplow, Hannah Russell, Jennifer Cable, Meagan Smith and Aliza Williams.
“I have a lot of raw talent,” Cox said. “Fortunately for me, they have played a couple of seasons of club that developed their volleyball knowledge, so I’m not building from scratch.”
Cox said her team’s primary goal is to make it into the post season. “I also want to develop our defensive strategies that are more threatening to different rotations,” she said.