FORSYTH – It’s safe to say the Forsyth High School volleyball program is still in the honeymoon phase with first-year head coach Mallory Richardson.

Richardson, who worked as a volunteer coach with the program last season, takes over the top job from Katrina Gockley, who moved on to take over at Springfield Parkview.

Richardson has many of the top weapons returning from last season’s 12-12-2 team, led by three-sport standout Emily Shipman.

Shipman earned second-team honors for the Mid-Lakes Conference all-league team and was a second-team all-area player as a junior, when she finished with 150 kills, 289 digs.

“I love our old coach, but it’s nice to have a fresh outlook on the game,” Shipman said of the arrival of Richardson. “She is showing us new skills and has had a complete new outlook all along.”

Richardson coached for two seasons at Crane before coming to Forsyth.

She credited Shipman and other upperclassmen for helping to make it a smooth transition and building for the season opener, scheduled for Sept. 3 at home against Skyline.

“The girls have really come together well throughout the summer and in these first couple of weeks of practice,” Richardson said. “We’ve really been focusing on encouraging each other and building that team support. 

“I like what I’ve been seeing.”

A big part of that is Shipman, who has made her mark as a high-level softball recruit, while still turning herself into one of the best volleyball and basketball players in the Tri-Lakes area.

She has the ability to take over a match from her outside hitter position, while drawing enough attention from opponents to open up opportunities for teammates.

“It’s been awesome, having a senior leader who has been a strong presence on the team, on the floor and off the floor,” Richardson said. “It’s been real nice having her – she’s a strong player all around.”

Also returning are Haley McCown (82 kills, 236 digs), Katrina Drake (363 assists, 48 kills, 163 digs), Cadence Swank (89 kills), plus sophomores Emmalea Cook (38 kills, 250 digs) and Landry Stuart (38 kills, 66 digs).

“I think right now, passing is one of our strengths,” Richardson said. “We’re not the tallest team, we’re definitely building on our hitting skills and we’ve been getting stronger. We’ve had to rely in the past on being a better defensive team.”

One of the ways the Lady Panthers have been working on defense is by going against their coach in practice.

Richardson was a standout player at Branson High School and College of the Ozarks, and can give her players different looks and challenges when she steps on the court against them.

“She gets us out there and definitely hits harder than a lot of us,” Shipman said. “It’s nice to get her out there with us, so we can still have our normal six and have somebody hitting at us, like somebody we play against.”

Forsyth volleyball schedule

Sept. 5: at Strafford

Sept. 10: School of the Ozarks

Sept. 14: Forsyth Tournament

Sept. 19: Ava

Sept. 23: Billings

Sept. 26: at Hollister

Sept. 28: Galena Lady Bear Classic

Sept. 30: at Fordland

Oct. 1: at Stockton

Oct. 7: at Spokane

Oct. 8: Hurley

Oct. 14: at Marionville

Oct. 15: Bradleyville

Oct. 17: Clever

Oct. 19: Sparta Invitational

Oct. 21: at Blue Eye

Oct. 22: Crane

Oct. 24: Fair Grove

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