Setting it all up

There’s a good chance Jessica Lucas knows the fundamentals of volleyball as well as anyone who has ever played that sport at Seymour High School.

That’s because as she was growing up, her mother, Angie Lucas, was the head coach.

“I want to say my first year (playing volleyball) was in first grade,” she said. “I played up three years on my mom’s club team, so I’ve been playing for a long time.”

Throughout her SHS career, Lucas was the varsity setter.

“As a setter, you always want to think, ‘Be aggressive,’ because that leaves your hitters one-on-one, and obviously, the idea is to get your hitters the best set possible,” she said. “As a setter, you always set up your hitters for the best opportunities, so you try to read the blocker out of the corner of your eye as you’re setting. And then you’ll either push them further out or in, how you see their blocker, how they’re cheating one way or the other.”

Lucas had to be able to move quickly to get to the ball in order to make a good set.

“Over the years, I’ve learned by the platform and the angle coming off the passers’ arms to be able to react to it fast enough,” she said. “On serve-receive, I’ll give them a signal with my hand. But on free balls, we have plays that I call out, so I have to know everyone’s play with every play.”

Having strong passers is important, Lucas said.

“You can’t do anything without having that first contact,” she said. “Everything is stressed around ball control, which starts with that first pass, and then the set, and then the hit comes out of it.”

In her four years of playing varsity, Lucas served as a team captain.

“It’s usually a setter’s job to be a speaking captain on the floor. It doesn’t have to be, but you want your setter to be that person,” she said. “Setting is kind of like the leader, like the leading position on the team. You get to run your offenses, kind of like the quarterback, so it was nice to be in charge.”

During her career, the Owls compiled a record of 118-25, including 30 or more wins the final three years.

“We just can’t base our career here on what happened at sectional,” she said of losing to sixth-ranked Floyd Central in five sets in this fall’s sectional.

“Obviously, we’ve had a real good career the past four years. A lot if it is just commitment. I think last year, we had every girl in the program playing club, which is really good because everyone else is out there getting better, and we need to have girls like that, too, people in the gym working out every day after school.”

Lucas said she welcomed the strong schedule the Owls played.

“It definitely helped us, especially getting ranked, and it helped prepare us for what we were going to see in the tournament,” she said.

Lucas also said Seymour’s success required them to be mentally strong.

“Volleyball is almost 100 percent mental, everything you do,” she said. “Like serving, you have to go back there and think you’re going to get it in and ace them every time. If you go up to block, and if you think you’re going to block this ball, you probably are if you think that.”

Quick thinking is important, too.

“I like how volleyball makes you think,” she said. “You have to come up with your own way to score. You have to think, ‘I’m going to be better than or outwork the other team, out-think the other team.’ I like all the teamwork involved and having all your friends there.”

Senior Focus

Name: Jessica Lucas

School: Seymour High School

Parents: Tom and Angie Lucas

Sibling: Matthew

Sports: Volleyball, four years

Athletic highlights: All-Hoosier Hills Conference, four years; HHC Tournament champions, 2011; sectional champions, 2011 and 2012; regional champions, 2011 and 2012; team’s most valuable player award, four years; Junior All-Star team, 2012; Senior All-Star team, 2013; all-state, 2012 and 2013; single-season (988) and career (3,597) assist school records; AAU All-American team, 2012

Home matches: “They’re awesome. We always had a good crowd. Our gym is amazing.”

Favorite away gym: “I’d say Brownstown just because I like how it’s sunken. The crowd is just huge, and the atmosphere is always great.”

Volleyball: “It’s just a neat experience. Especially for younger girls who aren’t involved in a sport, volleyball would be a good one to make friends. You definitely want to build those fundamentals and basic stuff at a younger age, and as it carries on, you just get better at it. The dedication everyone has had and the commitment level has changed the program.”

Attending SHS: “I like it here. The teachers are awesome, and it’s such a positive atmosphere.”

Organizations: National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Government, Latin Club

Plans: Graduate midterm and attend Western Kentucky University and play volleyball

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite TV show: “Pretty Little Liars”

Favorite movie: “Another Cinderella Story”

Favorite team: Indiana Hoosiers

Favorite quote: “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back … play for her.” — Mia Hamm

Author photo
Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.