CMS volleyball prepares for season with interim coach

The Cutter Morning Star volleyball team has not had the easiest offseason with the departure of former head coach Lydia Shelton, but the Lady Eagles have found new leadership with interim head coach Donnie Pogue.

Pogue has been with Cutter Morning Star for 16 years and is the head softball coach for the Lady Eagles. This year, he stepped in to fill the role as volleyball coach.

Senior hitter Keaira Polke, who also plays softball for Pogue, has taken a leadership role in the team.

“It is going to take discipline,” Polke said. “Lots of it. Focus and communication to learn the sport. We have a lot of new girls, and we want to build them up — show them what state looks like.

Polke highlighted Magnet Cove as a big rival.

“I want to beat Magnet Cove,” she said. “We play them a lot in every sport.”

The Lady Eagles have been highly competitive in recent years.

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“My expectation is the state tournament,” Pogue said. “I don’t know when we have not made the state tournament. For volleyball especially the expectation here is our athletes, our community and our fans. The expectation is to be in the state tournament in volleyball.”

Last season, the Lady Eagles were beaten in five sets by Ridgefield Christian in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament. Senior Haleigh Hulsey looks for redemption in her last year in the state tournament.

Senior setter and all-around player Perla Ramirez looks forward to winning the most.

Returning to the court is senior back row Leslie Menjivar.

“Hopefully we have a good year,” she said. “We want to win a bunch of games. We are a little rusty, but we will get better.”

Pogue has four returning starters and graduated three impact seniors who are playing college volleyball. Outside hitter Kendal Knott De Bord and setter Sierra Wilmath are at Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, and libero Kerianna Collins plays at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.

Team strength and experience at Cutter Morning Star with senior leadership will help the team.

“They have a great work ethic, attitude and energy,” Pogue said. “A good group of them have played a lot of club ball, so we have some experience. A good amount of volleyball experience.”

Senior setter Trynytee Case has a lot of motivation.

“Honestly I just love this game,” Case said. “I have been playing for a very, very long time. I like to help other people and when they finally get it, it is the best.”

Case added that her favorite team to play would be Hot Springs because that’s where her career started.

The Lady Eagles have had gym access, and coaches come in to work with the players while the administration searches for the future permanent head coach.

“We do have a plan in place,” Cutter Morning Star Athletic Director Beau Brickell said. “We do have a candidate in mind that we believe will start interning with us in the spring, and she will roll right into fall practice next year.”

Just three weeks ago, Pogue stepped into the role.

“This year for us to win we are going to have to be very disciplined and fundamentally sound and play very technical volleyball,” Pogue said. “And just be a disciplined ballclub.”

Despite the challenges of losing a head coach then having an interim coach, the Lady Eagles are staying strong.

“The kids have been super resilient,” Brickell said. “There have been a couple of seniors that have stayed on me since the beginning of June. We set up summer workouts. We had area coaches come in and help. We have allowed open gyms, and coach Pogue has done a phenomenal job getting them going.”

The Lady Eagles will start their season with a benefit game Aug. 18 against Hot Springs. Cutter Morning Star’s regular season begins Aug. 22 against Conway Christian.

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