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Eyes on the prize

Opp’s Caiden Harrell waits for a serve during an earlier contest this season. Harrell, a senior, shows her quickness and awareness on the court. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Opp’s Caiden Harrell serves during an earlier contest this season. Harrell, a senior, shows her quickness and awareness on the court. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Caiden Harrell’s eyes never leave the ball as the Opp senior setter waits for the right moment to put the volleyball in the right position for a big hit.

For the past four years, Harrell has been whirling about on the court, finding opportunities for outside hitters to score points for the Lady Bobcats.

This season hasn’t been any different.

Harrell has held one of the most important positions on Opp’s squad since she was a freshman.

How she got into the role was by chance, she said.

“I just started setting at practice,” Harrell said. “I progressed.”

When asked what it takes to be a setter, Harrell listed the character traits without hesitation, like she lives by them.

“You have to have a leadership role, and you have to be a positive player on the court,” she said. “You have to know where all of your players are; and your strengths and your weaknesses.”

Harrells’ main strength, she said, is her quickness and court awareness.

It’s not often that the senior won’t know where to set the ball for hitters because there’s a constant stream of communication on the court.

“I usually have the final decision where I want to set it,” she said. “I’ll call their numbers out.”

Harrell said there have been times where she doesn’t know where to place the ball, but it’s seldom.

OHS volleyball coach Christie Spurlin said in those cases is where Harrell really does her best work for the team.

“Someitmes in the offense, she just does it on her own,” Spurlin said. “Especially if there are big blockers up there, she knows to either tip it or to go around the block, or who to set it to or to set it over.

“She’s got a good eye for stuff like that,” she said.

Usually when players advance to the net is when Harrell sees opportunities to get the ball in holes for points.

“Even before the play starts, there are usually holes before you serve,” Harrell said.

Harrell has been playing volleyball since seventh grade and considers this her sport.

The reason why she likes it so much is because it’s a team sport.

“I like it because I’m good at it, and I just like it,” Harrell said. “It’s a team thing, not an individual thing.”

Harrell and the Lady Bobcats will be starting postseason action on Monday at home when they host the Class 3A, Area 2 tournament at OHS.

The Lady Bobcats, who have already gained a berth to the South Super Regional in Montgomery, await the winner of the Straughn-Excel match in the finals.

Harrell said the team’s biggest opponent is Straughn.

“They’re going to be our biggest team that we have to play,” she said. “So, we’ve got to work on stuff at practice.”

Last year, the Lady Bobcats were only four points away from advancing to the state tournament in the super regional finals. OHS lost in five games to Cottage Hill.

Harrell said that was a sad day.

“It was horrible,” she said.

However, the Lady Bobcats have been working hard this season to get back to the regional tournament and hopefully, beyond.

“We want to go to state,” Harrell said.

Luckily, OHS has a smart and quick player to help lead it to that goal.

Caiden is the daughter of Gary and Christy Harrell of Opp.