MUNCIE – The Central Bearcats want to play fast. As it turns out, they practice what they preach.
At the conclusion of a recent preseason practice, they operated so quickly that players didn’t have time to think. After a point was over in 6-on-6 drills, there was no regrouping and sending a player back to the service line. Almost as soon as a ball would hit the floor, assistant coach Dan Bergren would toss another one into play, and the action continued. Even when the Bearcats had to pick up balls and break down the nets, Central coach Wes Lyon put them on a two-minute timer.
This is right in line with Central’s philosophy and its desire to allow players to simply react and play.
“From a coaching standpoint, we like to coach on the fly,” Lyon said. “We like to make sure kids can figure things out on the fly, because in a real game, you can’t stop them. You run out of timeouts in a game, and you’re really on your own.
“A key word we use is that we want to be self-reliant. That’s one thing we try to teach by doing everything fast.”
One of the reasons Central has the luxury to go at warp speed is that it is starting in a good place this season. With a strong group of returners from a team which went 26-9 and won a sectional, such as setter Lacee Adams and outside hitter Virginia Wilhoite, the foundation is set. Regarding the basics, Lyon said, “We’ve hit on (them), but we can actually move forward a little bit.”
Going fast is crucial in the middle for the Bearcats, who will rely on Micah Leavell and E’Laisah Young, the team’s top two attackers last season. Nikki Marshall and Allison Ruddick are versatile and could play in the back row or on the outside, while Kinkaid Padgett, Carolina Aikin and Natalie Smith will be defensive specialists.
One change from last season doesn’t necessarily have to do with on-court skills.
“We’re going to have a good year, we are,” Wilhoite said. “Our attitudes are much better than last year. We’re all closer and connecting better.
“We weren’t rude (last year), but we would encourage each other differently; it was kind of harsh. But now we’re used to it, and now we’re taking it to make us better.
Adams was in agreement on that front.
“We’re used to each other,” Adams said, “so it’s been a good vibe.”
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.