Taking the next step

Molly Poarch and the Lady Golden Bears advanced to the Sweet 16 last season.

LINCOLN -- Head coach Patty Hansen and the Lincoln High School volleyball team have lofty goals going into the new season. 

Last fall, the Lady Golden Bears made history by reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time. Hansen hopes her 2019 squad can surpass the success enjoyed by the 2018 team.

“We want to go one step further,” she said. “Our biggest goal is to get past that (Sweet 16) and get to the Elite 8, represent Talladega County and do our job.”

Hansen is entering her 15th season at the Lincoln helm.

She said it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication from the players and coaches to help make the program successful. 

Over the last 14years, Lincoln has collected eight county championships, three runners-up, four area championships, a Sweet 16 appearance and 20-plus scholarships. The Lady Golden Bears are also trying to increase their streak of 30 or more wins to five seasons.

“I think building traditions, building good programs and being consistent makes us a strong program in the county,” Hansen said. “We just want to get stronger outside of the county. You have to build a program, you have to be here for the girls and you have to do everything possible. 

“The girls are a testament to that. They work hard, prepare hard. They get after it and they know what they have to do to win, and that’s what we want to do.”

One of the reasons behind Lincoln’s success is the camps it holds during the summer. 

This year, Lincoln is hosting a camp instructed by UAB’s volleyball team. For the first 14 years of her tenure, Hansen held a camp just for her squad, but this season, she decided to invite several county schools.

“We have 127 girls, and that is the most that we have ever had,” Hansen said. “Talladega also came in to play, so that added another 25 girls. We have 152 girls here to play volleyball. 

“I love Lincoln; that’s my first love, but I also want our other county schools to get stronger and better to make our county stronger in volleyball.”

Lincoln returns the majority of its team from last season.

The Lady Golden Bears will have to replace two starters, including two-time Talladega County Player of the Year, Kristen Woods. Woods recorded 320 kills, 357 digs, 113 assists and 77 aces last season. Hansen said it will take a team effort to replace Woods’ production.

“Kristen was a huge asset for our program,” the coach said. “She had eight scholarship offers and ended up going to play in North Carolina. It is (a) pretty tough (loss). She was a setter.

“We do have Taylor Lett coming back as a setter, and she is strong in that. We are training three new setters, and I think they can come in and be an asset for this team. 

“We have five of the seven players that made all-county tournament, all-county team or all-area team back, so we have a strong group coming back.”

All-state pick Lett, a senior, said she is excited about this team’s potential.

“We have a bunch of people coming up since we lost some seniors, but the new people coming up have worked together, and we know them,” Lett said. “We have a good connection and we all like each other outside of the court.

“We are always taught that you have to like each other outside the court so things can work inside the court. I feel we are going to do really well this year.”

Molly Poarch also feels the team has the potential to be really good. The senior said the older players and underclassmen have meshed well.

“Most of the seniors haven’t played with the other girls on the team, but so far, all the girls have a great connection,” Poarch said. “The games we have played, we have played good together. It is like we have played since we were in seventh grade together. I feel we are going to have a really good upcoming season.”