PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Setter Emma Parsons has found contributing role as a freshman

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By Lance Catchings

Last year, Emma Parsons was playing volleyball against middle school opponents.

This year, the freshman setter has faced many opponents who will be playing at the collegiate level next season. Such is the life for the freshman setter who has carved out a niche for herself on the Lady Panther varsity volleyball team.

In her last district game against Taylor she led the team with 19 assists and that is why her coach said she is so much more than a freshman at this point.

“Last year, she was playing eighth grade volleyball and I think she has done a really good job of knowing her hitters,” Head Coach Gretchen Peterson said. “She is very smart and gets the scheme of having to divide things up. She is starting to watch our opponents’ blockers better and is recognizing when she needs to push it out versus when to keep it in and use back row. She is very athletic and plays a lot more mature than a typical freshman would play.”

Peterson has faith in her freshman setter’s ability and does not shy away from giving her more on court responsibility.

“Since she is playing at a higher level she can take on more responsibility,” Peterson said. “She has done a really good job of doing that without letting it consume her and has found her way through it. The girls trust her, and they know she will go after every ball. They don’t see her as a freshman anymore they just see her as their teammate. There is a lot of trust and confidence that comes with that.”

Parsons said she knew high school volleyball would be different, but wanted to make the most of her opportunity.

“I knew high school volleyball would be a lot more difficult, but I was excited to challenge myself and work with the new girls,” she said. “I was nervous in the beginning but once I found a groove and started playing I started to get comfortable. I liked working with the girls and it became a lot of fun.”

One adjustment she had to make was to the pace of the game and size of the players.

“As a setter the biggest adjustment I had to make was to the speed of play,” she said. “We went from not as fast to playing with girls that jump higher and hit harder in different sets. That was the biggest adjustment for me coming into this season. It is exciting playing with the older girls and getting to see what we can do. The biggest challenge I feel setters face is hyping the team up. As a setter you essentially run the court and distribute the ball. You must stay high energy even when you are down that way you can rally and come back.”

This season instead of using one setter, Peterson has used a rotational approach. Parsons believes this is beneficial to the team and has led to her success.

“I feel like our rotations have worked to our advantage,” she said. “You can pair your setters with the hitters they connect well with. The setters also get a break to communicate with their players during that time off the court. You can then go back in open minded because you have seen the court from the sidelines. It helps you know what to do to pick up the pace.”

When it comes to dispersing the ball, Parsons uses her judgment and volleyball knowledge to determine where to attack.

“I am usually able to look at the ball and see who has the most open block,” she said. “I can also see who is hitting the hardest and being the smartest with the ball. It is also dependent on the team we are playing is and where they have the big block.”

Parsons found volleyball at a young age when her mom coached her team in second grade. She started playing then because she loved it and that is still what she enjoys most about the game. Her team faced Fredericksburg in the bi-district playoff round Tuesday night and she could not have been more excited for the game.

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to play with the girls and celebrate,” she said. “It is the most fun when we are all on our ‘A’ game and having fun on the court. I am excited to play in the playoffs with the girls. I want us to stay focused the whole time and hope we can pull together and go as far as we can. District was an exciting experience I am glad that I got to play and get the experience from this season.”

Parsons is sure to bring her enthusiasm and knowledge with her as she continues throughout her volleyball career in the years to come.

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