First volleyball team

The Bald Knob Lady Bulldogs volleyball team practices inside the high school gym Monday afternoon. Bald Knob is playing volleyball for the first time in school history this fall. Softball coach Nikki Mitsunaga will coach the team during its inaugural season.

BALD KNOB — For the first time in school history, Bald Knob High School will field a girls volleyball team.

More than 70 girls from grades 7-12 have reported to practice, according to coach Nikki Mitsunaga, who will be coaching the Lady Bulldogs during the inaugural season. Mitsunaga is currently the head softball coach and Bald Knob Middle School counselor.

Mitsunaga said the decision to have a volleyball team has been in discussion for a few years.

“Sarah Shannon, our former athletic director, really got this going a couple of years ago,” Mitsunaga said. “We put in a lot of work and talked to surrounding schools. Khali Gavin, our new AD, has kind of finished it up.”

Mitsunaga said it was announced that volleyball would be starting at Bald Knob and wanted to gauge the interest of the female athletes at the school.

“They had over 70 girls respond,” Mitsunaga said. “That spurred our school board on. It was the school board meeting at the end of June when they decided we were going to offer volleyball for this coming school year.”

Mitsunaga said the turnout will be good because it gives female students another sport to play besides basketball, softball, track and golf.

“It’s a different sport, and it allows kids who don’t necessarily participate in other things to participate in volleyball,” she said.

The Lady Bulldogs will not be placed in a conference this season. They will just be playing a season, using it as training for the 2022 season. The Arkansas Activities Association is in the middle of two-year cycle.

“We’re just going to play local schools,” Mitsunaga said. “Because of that, we’re just going to play junior high and senior high this year. When we enter a conference next year, we’ll have a seventh grade, junior high and high school teams.”

Mitsunaga, who previously coached volleyball in Little Rock, said her job is to get the program off the ground and train her assistant, McKayla Howard, to become head coach for 2022.

“It’s an excellent sport,” Mitsunaga said. “It’s just not where my passion lies anymore. McKayla grew up in Beebe. This will be her first experience coaching anything. She grew up an athlete and was a recruiter at the University of Arkansas. She’s been around sports.”

Mitsunaga said she’s excited for the girls who want to play volleyball.

“I think this will be a great opportunity for Bald Knob,” she said. “It gives us more opportunities to be competitive with schools around us with what we offer.”

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