As Lauren Self elevates to hit the volleyball over the net, Taylor Manning attempts to block it from the other side. Self manages to hit the ball past Manning, who had sent numerous shots back in the faces of other Free State High volleyball players on the first day of practice on Monday.
If the last names Self and Manning sound familiar - say in the Kansas University basketball sense - you'd be correct in your assumptions. While they are Free State sophomore volleyball players, they are also daughters of KU basketball icons - coach Bill Self and former KU forward Danny Manning.
Taylor Manning didn't take up the same sport as her father. She is expected to make an immediate impact on the Firebirds' volleyball team this season. Although only a sophomore, she has a realistic chance of making varsity.
"That's what I'm working for," Taylor Manning said. "My fingers are crossed. I think I can bring a lot of good team spirit, because I know, coming in as a sophomore, I won't have that much of an opportunity to play, so teamwork and team spirit will help me."
Manning, along with fellow sophomores Allison Ice, Nakai Mar, Bri Reynolds and Jennifer McCandless, showed up before everyone at 3 p.m., 30 minutes before practice started. The atmosphere was new and somewhat uncomfortable for various sophomores because they didn't play at FSHS as freshmen.
"Honestly, I don't know what to expect, and that's what makes me nervous," Ice said.
Who will make varsity and JV teams still is undetermined. Coach Nancy Hopkins said she would set the rosters later this week. There were 37 players at the practice.
Returning seniors Jessica Scott, Kelsey Harrison and Kristen Karlin will serve as Free State's leaders this season. The three have played at the varsity level since their sophomore seasons.
"It's going to be really important for us to stay positive and encourage and help everyone with our knowledge," Harrison said.
While the seniors are encouraging most of the time, Harrison admitted she wasn't afraid to dole out some discipline herself.
"If they don't listen, yeah, you have to be harsh," Harrison said. "But when we tell people something, it's not like we're trying to yell at them or be mean; we're just trying to help the team."
The sophomores are catching on to that philosophy already.
"Listening to the seniors will help a lot," Manning said. "They're a little intimidating, but they're only there to help because they want us to do just as well as they're going to do."
FSHS finished last season 13-5-1 and lost in the state quarterfinals. Coach Jason Pendleton will narrow down 52 players to 18 for the boys varsity soccer team. He said the team was far from where it needed to be right now with conditioning.
"We had some kids who acted very selfishly in the summer, not recognizing that soccer is a team sport, and by them choosing not to be as fit as we expeted them, they've put the team in a bind right from the beginning," Pendleton said.
As a result, the soccer team ran extra conditioning drills during its two-a-day practice Monday.
The seniors that will be expected to lead FSHS this season will be defender Mitchell Morrow and midfielders Travis Everett and Drew Schelar.
Coach Bob Lisher made it clear at practice - he's setting the bar high this season for the Firebirds. Free State seniors Brian Murphy, Ryan Murphy and Christian Ballard have already committed to play football at KU. For now, the focus will be on improving on last year's 4-6 mark and winning in the playoffs. Free State has never won a playoff game.
"With the experience that we have coming back, we like our speed and our size, so expectations are high," Lisher said. "We just have to continue to work hard in practice to make sure they stay high."
Lisher said the 72 players who showed up on Monday was the highest mark since 1998.
Coach Jon Renberger stressed consistency and placement during serves to the 14 tennis players who showed up for the first day of practice.
"In my opinion, the serve is the most important shot because it's the only shot in tennis for which the player has complete control," Renberger said. "Every other shot in tennis is a reaction off the opponent."
Seniors Leigh Luina and Julia Guard were selected as team captains. They were state qualifiers in doubles last season.
All 35 cross country players at practice on Monday will be on one of three cross country teams for the regular season.
"At the beginning, we work on building up strength and getting some distance in their legs, so you're pretty much doing distance runs," assistant coach Jordan Rose said. "As you get on into the season and the athletes get into better shape, you can move into some interval training."
Players ran from one to five miles on Monday, depending on their experience.
The gymnastics team is comprised of Lawrence and Free State athletes. LHS seniors Abby Jones and Kara Kellison, FHS senior Laura Devlin, and Perry/Lecompton senior Jennifer Pogge will lead the squad this season.
"For now we're trying to focus on basic muscle groups, lots of stomach muscles, arms, and lots of muscle training because you can get injured so easily in this sport," coach Kathy Johnson said.
The first meet will be Sept. 6 at Shawnee Mission Northwest.
Free State athletics director Steve Grant said the team had its first practice at Eagle Bend golf course Monday. They practiced off the driving range and on the putting green. The team will play nine holes of golf today.