Haneen Elsharif studied Arlington Lamar’s previous libero carefully to learn what it takes to succeed at one of volleyball’s most critical positions.
The senior isn’t exactly like former Lady Vikings standout Emily Dondero, and that’s not a bad thing. Elsharif and junior outside hitter Allyssa Hamlin are the new faces of Lamar volleyball. They want to maintain and improve on the success of the past three seasons, which has included three playoff appearances and two seasons of getting to at least the third round.
But they aren’t trying to replicate the past. They’re trying to put their own mark on what appears to be an emerging power program. The regular season opens with a road game at Mansfield Legacy on Aug. 8.
Whenever we get a kill or a nice dig, I like to cheer really loud because that brings everyone closer together and makes them really excited and makes us play better.
Lamar senior libero Haneen Elsharif
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“I think that every year that you get to see new leadership is a good thing,” Lamar coach Heather Woodman said. “Haneen leads well and Allyssa leads well, and I think their personalities have been great for our kids.”
Elsharif, who was an academic first-team all-district selection as a junior, played defensive specialist last season while the then-senior Dondero held down the libero spot. Even with Dondero now gone, Elsharif still finds herself learning from the former libero’s example.
“I don’t feel pressure,” Elsharif said. “I just feel like I just need to look up to her and do what she did. She did a really good job of leading and being nice to everyone and giving direction.”
Dondero’s work ethic on the court continues to inspire Elsahrif. “She works for everything,” Elsharif said. “Nothing went past her, and her balls are always so perfect and always good enough for the setter to set whatever she wanted. Every time I touch a ball, I always think, ‘Would Emily do worse or better than me?’ I’m always comparing myself to her because she’s a really good role model.”
Elsharif’s proving an exceptional role model as well. Hamlin, who earned academic all-district and honorable mention all-district honors as a sophomore, came into the program feeling a bit shy and timid. Teammates like Elsharif made her quickly feel like a part of the team.
And when Lamar’s new starting libero speaks up, everyone listens. “She never says anything bad about anybody,” Hamlin said of Elsharif. “Whenever she corrects people, it never sounds mean.”
Elsharif might temper her criticism, but her enthusiasm comes through loud and clear. She’s the type of player to whoop and holler for a teammate’s nice play. “Whenever we get a kill or a nice dig, I like to cheer really loud because that brings everyone closer together and makes them really excited and makes us play better,” Elsharif said.
Elsharif and Hamlin used spring practice, with last year’s seniors no longer participating, to get comfortable in their new roles. Now they’re ready to continue making sure folks think of Lamar for its volleyball as much as for its tradition-rich football. And they’re going to do it their way.
“We’ve been working hard all summer,” Elsharif said. “I think teams should watch out for us a little bit.”
The Arlington ISD volleyball team continue non-district with games on Aug. 15.
▪ Bowie hosts Cedar Hill at 6:30 p.m.
▪ Arlington travels to Coppell at 6:30 p.m.
▪ Lamar travels to Justin Northwest at 6:30 p.m.
▪ Martin plays Granbury at 6:30 p.m. at Young Junior High.
▪ Seguin hosts Grand Prairie at 6:30 p.m.
▪ Sam Houston hosts its home tournament beginning Aug. 17.
Stephen English: senglish@ star-telegram.com, @sbenglish74