The Northwestern State volleyball team is trying to spark that interest with the Volley Tots program geared towards youth ages 4-9.
“It started with the Junior Volleyball Association starting to expose young athletes to the sport at an early age,” Lady Demons co-head coach Hugh Hernesman said. “I think our sport gets pretty good early exposure anyway, but for us, we wanted to do it for this community that doesn’t get volleyball or play a lot of volleyball. So that’s why we wanted to do it here.”
Around 15 campers attended the three-day event, learning basic drills such as serving, setting and digging.
Despite having trouble trying to fill an earlier camp for older youth looking to play at the high school level, the Volley Tots camp set a benchmark with its first year numbers.
“This is the first since we’ve arrived that we’ve tried to run the camps,” Hernesman said. “Usually camps are locally driven. Without there being any high school or middle school volleyball here in the city, its real difficult to get the numbers, so I think that it was one reason we wanted to do a youth camp. As parents ourselves, we’re always looking for something for our kids to do.”
Unlike its brethren in the southern part of the state, North Louisiana has been slow to receive volleyball at the prep level.
Only six high school teams in the northern half of the state compete for the LHSAA championships in volleyball---none of those hailing from Natchitoches Central, Lakeview or St. Mary’s---but Hernesman has a feeling that it could change soon.
“We’ve heard rumblings that volleyball is about to start in Natchitoches pretty soon and it’s working its way from Shreveport,” Hernesman said. “It’s just another chance for us. We have two kids that love to play and they have a bunch of friends that want to do it too. It’s just a chance to do something for the community and try to get things going. If there’s any interest, we might continue on and do this as a weekly type thing during the fall.”
While Natchitoches does not have a high school volleyball team, Hernesman’s Lady Demons have grown to be a perennial force in the Southland Conference.
Hernesman, along with his wife Stephanie, inherited a program that went 3-21 the season before they arrived and had them three points from the Southland Conference tournament title and an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Only losing one senior from that team, Hernesman has optimism that the Lady Demons can break through to win its first conference tournament title in program history.
“We’re obviously looking forward to the fall season,” Hernesman said. “Last year at this time, we didn’t know what we were going to have for the fall, but we ended up with the best season in school history. This year, we feel like we have a better feel about what this team’s going to be. We return the entire starting lineup. We feel good and our girls are very determined.”
The Lady Demons will host another one of their community events---the Demon Digfest---Aug. 2-3 at Point Place Marina before beginning training camp for the 2014 season.
NSU opens its season against North Texas Aug. 29 in Denton, Texas.