ALEXANDRIA — The Lapel volleyball team has seen a surge of success over the last two years, having won 40 games over that period.

It is no accident that this run for the Bulldogs coincided with the arrival of a talented freshman class.

With just two seniors on this year’s team, much of the leadership and success for the 2017 edition will lie in the hands of that group, now juniors — with Isabel Anderson as the beating heart of the team.

An all-around talent, Anderson was among the team leaders in almost every statistical category for Lapel in 2016. She was second in service aces, serving percentage and digs while leading the team in assists and total serves. She was even third on the team in blocks with 22.

Coach Hilary Eppert says Anderson’s importance to the team goes beyond the stats; she is really an extra coach on the floor.

“She’s running the plays, talking to them about it, and they work together really well,” Eppert said. “I have my ideas what I want them to do, and I convey that to them. As far as making changes on the fly or in dead balls, she’s definitely there.”

For the second-straight year, Lapel graduated a large group of senior leaders. Eppert looks for Anderson to pick up where those groups left off and said it comes naturally for Anderson.

“She’s very positive,” Eppert said. “If she gets mad at anybody, it’s usually at herself, and that’s very fleeting. Even when we’re down a few points, she still does a really good job of keeping people up, and that’s so important.”

In high school volleyball, there is very little down time between points. A negative result has to be forgotten quickly, so there is no room for negativity in Anderson’s leadership approach.

“I think it’s important to always keep people positive,” Anderson said. “A lot of girls are new to varsity (this year), so they get down on themselves more easily. If I just keep them up, I don’t have to give a whole speech, just a “good job, you got the next one.’ Just keep them up, that’s the biggest thing in volleyball.”

A talented and athletic group of sophomores, including Zoe Freer, Delany Peoples, and Makynlee Taylor, comprise a large part of that group of newcomers. Anderson says having those players, along with senior Taylor Murdock and junior Emily Eppert, along the front line helps with the team’s confidence and hers.

“It’s nice for the back row because you have those big blockers up there,” Anderson said. “It helps the back row with leverage.”

Anderson’s positive approach includes her outlook for the season. A tough schedule, which includes a competitive Madison County tournament as well as a deep sectional field, lies ahead.

“I at least want to advance further in our sectional,” she said. “We have a lot of hard teams that we played last year, so that would be awesome. I feel like we can hang in there with those teams if we work really hard this year.”

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Rob Hunt covers news, sports and other happenings in South Madison County. He can be reached at rhunt@pendletontimespost.com or (765) 778-2324.