It may seem appropriate that entering his fourth season as Northside's volleyball coach, Matt Waack has a senior-laden squad.
Waack welcomes back 10 seniors on the Lady Bears' roster for this upcoming season.
After gradually improving the team, Waack believes the Lady Bears (23-14 in 2018) — especially the seniors who have gone through the program spanning the coach's tenure — are poised to break through in the fall, both by contending in the 6A-Central and finally winning a state tournament match after falling in the first round each of the previous three years.
"We've probably got five or six kids who spent time starting last year as juniors, so for them to be back, that's a huge plus for me," Waack said.
He added the seniors have been setting an example during the team's off-season conditioning program.
"They've been working really hard; I couldn't be more pleased with that group of seniors' work ethic," Waack said. "That's one of the reasons we have 10 kids; all 10 of those seniors that I have all bring it every day, whether it's weight training, strength and conditioning or on the volleyball court."
Among the returning seniors are a pair of three-year starters in middle blocker/right-side hitter Nicole Medlin and setter Lexie Mosby.
Medlin led the Lady Bears in kills last season with 313, and Mosby had the most assists with 993.
The team will also return its top three leaders in kills from last season with Medlin, along with fellow seniors Quineisha Tillery (254) and Grace Anne Hollenbeck (183).
"Nicole and Lexie have both really flourished the last couple of years," Waack said. "Quineisha Tillery, she's going to be a force to be reckoned with; she played club this year for the first time this spring and she actually played some setter on her club team. ... Her volleyball IQ has just grown so much just from having that added experience and playing different positions."
Waack is also counting on two more seniors who are coming back from injuries in defensive specialist Taylor Pate and middle blocker Iesha Tillery, who missed all of last season.
"Iesha is back from her injury; she had a knee injury in basketball before the season started and she didn't to get to play at all for us, so she's had to work to get back," Waack said. "But I also think if she gets back 100 percent, she's going to be another weapon for us that we didn't have last year."
In addition, Northside returns junior outside hitter Thea Bishop, who led the team with 514 digs a season ago.
"We've got a lot of pieces; it's going to be all about how well we can get along and pushing the boat in the same direction at the same time because we're going to have more weapons than we can play all at once," Waack said. "But over the course of the season, we're going to need them all eventually, it's just a matter of when and where."
From now until the Arkansas Activities Association-mandated dead period later this month, the Lady Bears are going to finish up their conditioning exercises, which gives Waack more time to check out his roster.
"We've done a lot of conditioning all spring and we're doing a couple of days a week of volleyball, spending a lot of time for me to evaluate kids and see where they fit in our program and figuring out where our strengths and weaknesses are so we can really hammer it out for the dead period," Waack said.
"Once we come back from the dead period, we'll start volleyball every day. That's going to be my chance to really go after them and get them every day and figure out where they need to build and get stronger and figure out what weaknesses we need to work on and figure out what kids fit in what spot."
Following the dead period, the Lady Bears will have team camps at Arkansas Tech and at Southside, and will have a pair of one-day scrimmages in northwest Arkansas.
Northside opens up the 2019 volleyball season with five straight home matches, beginning on Aug. 27 against Springdale.