With some experience returning, Van Buren coach Stephanie Hill is expecting her squad to have a better volleyball season in 2014.

"Size-wise, we’re not very big, but what we lack in size, we’re going to make up for it on the defensive side of things," said Hill. "We have quite a few returners with a lot of varsity experience to be competitive and successful."

Van Buren returns senior Chole Bauman, who was an all-conference selection last season.

Abbi Davis (junior) and Tori Stafford (senior) are expected to be setters for the Lady Pointers.

Hill has three players to play in a couple of defensive spots, including Hannah Pogue (senior), Sidnee Carter (junior) and Breanna Vest (senior).

"They played varsity at various times during the season. They’re continuously battling for those defensive spots," Hill said.

Outside hitters will include Jessica Olienyk (senior) and Addy Hall (senior).

"Jessica was our inside hitter, but she found a home after we moved her to outside," said Hill. "Addy has made a great transition to outside hitter."

Right side hitter is Lauren Megan Humphreys (junior).

Van Buren also welcomes newcomer Hattie Morrison (sophomore) to help shore up the middle of the court.

"Hattie’s natural position is more outside, but since we moved her inside, she has really embraced it and made it her own," Hill said. "She’s done a good job for us in the off season."

The Lady Pointers will be without sophomore Emilee Aaron, who "made a huge impact" last season. Aaron is nursing a knee injury and will miss the entire season. "At least we get her back for two more years," Hill said.

Van Buren finished 11-16 overall last season.

"I had hoped we would have done much better in conference last season, but volleyball is such a mental game, it really got us down at times," said Hill. "Hopefully making the transition to the Central conference will be good for us and I hope we can get on a roll early."

Van Buren will square off in the 7A/6A Central Conference this season after spending the last cycle in the 7A/6A West.

"This is going to be a very competitive conference for us," Hill said. "We’re going to be facing some very strong teams."

The league will feature Greenwood, Bryant, Conway, Mount St. Mary and county rival, Alma.

"Greenwood is solid. Conway will be very competitive. Bryant has some good returning players and Mount St. Mary made a good run in the state tournament," said Hill. "We have to be solid too."

Van Buren will play a few 7A West opponents to open the season. "I would much rather play some of the best teams and get better," Hill said.

The Lady Pointers open the season with a benefit match on Thursday against Northside starting at 5:30 p.m. Van Buren travels to Rogers on Monday, Aug. 25, to start nonconference play before hosting Southside on Tuesday, Aug. 26. Both matches are slated to begin at 5 p.m.

Conference play starts on Sept. 4 in a home match against Conway and will travel to Alma on Sept. 9 for another league contest.