By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BELMONT – Belmont High School is a place where girls basketball rules. Check out the 10 gold balls in the trophy case, including one from last season and 2010.
This year, however, room has been made in the gymnasium for volleyball. Yes, holes were drilled in Belmont’s beloved basketball court this summer to support the net standards.
The first-year Lady Cardinals, many playing organized volleyball for the first time, have fashioned an 11-6 record headed into this week’s matches. They started the season with seven straight victories.
“We’ve had great support from the fans and the community,” first-year coach Reid Gann said. “We’ve had good turnouts for our matches. There’s a lot of interest.”
Gann, who has coached football and baseball, knew very little about volleyball when he accepted the position, neither did his assistants – Micah Funderburk and Camille Stanfield.
All three coaches, along with their 15 players, are learning as they go.
“I’ve enjoyed coaching it,” Gann said. “I’ve learned a lot and we’re having a lot of fun. This is a good sport for these ladies.”
Chloe Watson, a freshman outside hitter, had never played the sport before.
“We are all learning more about it,” she said prior to the team’s 3-0 road win last week against Ripley. “We’re coming together as a team.”
Watson and Gann believe playing against tough competition in the recent Tupelo Volleyfest has helped the team. They’ve also played matches against more-experienced Alabama teams.
“We learned a lot playing in the Tupelo tournament,” Watson said. “We did really well.”
Belmont finished second overall in the silver division of Tupelo’s Volleyfest. The Lady Cardinals lost to Tupelo, Long Beach and Caledonia, but defeated Corinth and Ripley. The next week they earned a split against two Alabama clubs, beating Sheffield and losing to Muscle Shoals.
“The Tupelo tournament was a confidence-builder,” Gann said. “We had not seen that level of competition. You could not simulate the competition we faced.
“We played well, even in the losses. We grew up as a team.”
Gann’s program got a welcomed boost last month, when 6-foot-2 Russian exchange student Maria Menshchikova enrolled. She has been a force in the middle.
“If we give her a good set, she’s going to put it down,” Gann said. “She’s very competitive and it rubs off on our other girls.”