With the success of Booneville’s high school volleyball teams, perhaps it was inevitable.
Booneville can now boast of two Junior Olympic volleyball teams, one for 15-and-under and the other for 13-and-under. The teams are affiliated with the Fort Smith Juniors program, on which several Booneville players have participated in the past few years. But these are the first teams actually based in Booneville.
Players on the 15-under squad are Abby Glass, AshLeah Craig, Brittany Drawbaugh, Haley Carter, Abbie Eccles, Macy Geddes and Casey Townsend.
The 13-under team includes Abby Wester, Hannah DeLeon, Jada Jenkins, Jessica Wilkens, Kaitlyn FitzPatrick, Paisley Templeman, Klarissa Ring, Maddie Herrera and Aleeah Blansett.
There is the possibility that more players will be added to one or both teams as time goes by.
These teams will compete in a number of regional tournaments through the winter and early spring. They are coached by former FSJ, Booneville and Paris volleyball player Jamie Cauthon, assisted by her father, J.W. Cauthon.
Their first tournament will be the Santa Bash in Fort Smith. The 13-under team will play on Dec. 14 and the 15-unders compete the following day. The tournament will be held at the Fort Smith Juniors complex, 5709 South 73rd, which is across from Ben Geren Park.
The teams will have the opportunity to play in Fayetteville, Little Rock, Conway and perhaps Oklahoma City, with the centerpiece being the Battle at the Fort in Fort Smith. The 15s will play Jan. 25-26 with the 13s competing Feb. 1-2.
The extra time spent in the JO program can only help these players as they move forward. They will have to learn to play all around due to the limited depth and this is a challenge they are looking forward to.
Signs of improvement are already showing. Glass and Carter, who are dangerous front row players, are learning the art of digging the ball and have improved that skill greatly. The added work will help them as they vie for starting spots on next season’s Booneville school teams, Glass as a sophomore for the Lady Cats and Carter as a freshman for the junior high team.