RIPLEY –  As with any enterprise that comes under new leadership, there is always a period of adjustment.  Luckily for the Ripley Lady Viking volleyball team, they have a new head coach, but one that is extremely familiar. 

Lauren Fuhrman has assumed the role of varsity head coach after spending the past two seasons as the junior varsity head coach, during which time she became acquainted with most of the players she now leads on the varsity squad.  Fuhrman hopes that the experience and familiarity pays dividends for the Vikings in 2016.

“It’s been an extreme privilege to work with this group,” Fuhrman said, “Especially this group of seniors that have inspired such leadership.  It’s definitely had a trickle-down effect through our team.  It’s been an awesome first couple of weeks.”

Even though she’s coached many of these players before, assuming the varsity head coaching position has still been transition for Fuhrman.  Luckily for her, it’s allowed her the opportunity to take a more active approach to the development of the team.

“If anything, it’s helped me personally,” Fuhrman said, “I enjoy watching these younger players develop into great young adults with volleyball skills, leadership skills and teamwork skills.”

Also easing the transition is that core group of four seniors–Kindra Sarver, Courtney Lanham, Cassidy Craddock and Allie Hamilton–that have been with Fuhrman since the beginning.  Now, they’ll try to bring that leadership to a team that features a solid mix of underclassmen. 

Sarver, a Second Team All-MSAC pick last season, returns on the strong side, Lanham returns on the weak side, while Craddock assumes the Libero role at the back and Hamilton returns in the middle after missing several games last season with an illness.  

“They definitely grew up together,” Fuhrman said of her senior core, “If anything, they have some excellent cohesion.  They’ve stepped up to be a voice for the team when it comes to me, the students and the administration.  They want what’s best for the team and their teammates.”

The Vikings will also deploy four juniors with burgeoning potential in Anna Kurnot, Kenzie Casto, Brianna McCune and Ashley Casto.  

Replacing Fuhrman as the junior varsity coach is former Viking standout Dusti Fisher.  Fisher has a talented roster to work with, including: juniors Kalin Manley and Karlie Hesson; sophomores Lexi Prater, Haylee Casto and Jahlea Bumpus; and freshmen Kaitlin Murray, Ella Casto, Katlyn Sarver and Addi Wilkinson. 

Fisher will be charged with developing that young roster, getting them ready to contribute at a varsity level.  

All that remains now for Fuhrman and her squad is to actually take the floor in 2016.  To that end, the Vikings have spent much of the preseason trying to develop and foster a chemistry and a focus that will serve them during a long, arduous regular season in which they will face challenges great and small. 

The Vikings will once again have to traverse the difficult MSAC, which features powerhouse GW, as well as a host of other tough teams.  Not only that, but Ripley finds itself with new sectional and regional alignments.  They now share a section with Parkersburg and Parkersburg South, while sharing a region with Cabell Midland, Hurricane, Huntington and Spring Valley.   

Fuhrman is confident in her team’s ability to improve, but she also wants to aim a little higher.

“My expectations are for us to show improvement in technical skills,” Fuhrman said, “I always aim to inspire young adults and inspire them to be good people on and off the court.  That’s definitely one of my expectations.”

The Lady Vikings open their season tomorrow (Wednesday) at home against Riverside.  The junior varsity contest kicks things off at 5:30 p.m., with varsity following at the Ripley High Health Center Gymnasium.