Talented Lady Panthers finding focus
BENTON – After a historic year which saw the 23-4 Benton Lady Panthers volleyball team fall in five games in the 6A State Championship game against Jonesboro, Benton returns eight seniors to an experienced team which swept every 6A South Conference match.
“We have eight seniors and they’re all going to be playing,” Benton Coach Brandy Chumley said. “It’s going to depend on how motivated we are [she said referencing this year’s success]. This group, they all want to be leaders together. They want to step up. There’s a lot of potential there. It will be determined on if they get themselves ready to play for each game.”
Last year marked the biggest volleyball team in school history and saw the loss of two All-State seniors, Allison Reynolds and Xandra Lock, who were huge leaders to the Lady Panthers last year.
“There’s no replacing them,” Chumley said of Reynolds and Lock. “They did it all, great leaders. They pushed each other and pushed their teammates too. They did all the little things.”
The Lady Panthers do return a 6A All-State selection in Braxton Chumley, the coach’s daughter and one of eight Benton seniors.
Chumley and fellow senior Taylor Lindberg will handle the setting duties this year, as well as provide a dangerous hitting option, and senior Ashlie Dintleman will provide great defense and hitting ability as well.
“They’re our main hitters along with Ashlie,” Brandy Chumley said of Braxton and Lindberg. “You got [Kiyaonda] Fisher (senior) and [junior] Caitlyn [Long], I think they are going to step in this year. You have some right side with Nakiya [Baxter] and Braylee [Landreth] (both seniors), and then you have Braxton, Ashlie and Taylor, who will be playing middle and right side, too.
“Our biggest thing with this group is going to be leadership and focus. The talent will be there, it’s just being able to be that talented when they want to. They need to want to all the time. That’s not always there. They’re practicing hard and they can be really fun to watch.”
Defensive specialist Bailey Korte and libero Kendall Meadors round out the Lady Panther seniors.
“Kendall ended last year great,” Coach Chumley said. “If we can keep her focused and at the ready, she can do really good things.”
Again, focus has been an area Chumley said Benton will have to improve upon.
“This group, when they want to focus, they normally can,” she said. “My biggest thing is to be focused all the time and not when you have to play well. I want you to play well all the time.
They’re capable of not starting games, but when the game is on the line, they can pick it up. My focus is for them to start out strong.”