MIAMI — Entering their first full week of practice the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Lady Norse volleyball team appears to be ahead of where they have been in the past, according to head coach Eric Iverson.

The Lady Norse began preseason workouts Thursday, Aug. 10, in the Glen Wolfe Student Activity Center. Five sophomores return from a team, which finished 8-8 last season, along with nine freshmen.

During the opening day, Iverson was able to create three or four depth charts indicating different rotations.

“We still have time to make some minor adjustments because of the level of competition at a couple of spots,” Iverson said. “Competition at both the libero position and the right side remains intense.

“Our team is a highly intellectual group as far as volleyball savoy goes,” Iverson said. “So installing our sets and play calls went very quick the first day. I’m very pleased with their ability to retain what they were taught.

“Since all of our freshmen came into camp fresh off playing on traveling teams, they were in great physical condition,” Iverson said. “Because of that, I feel like we are weeks ahead of ourselves right now as far as conditioning and how we want to play.

“It’s just a matter of teaching them the concepts of how we maintain focus for a full match without having some mental blips,” Iverson said. “We want them to relax and play volleyball.”

NEO opens the regular season in seven days at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22 in the SAC against Neosho County Community College of Chanute, Kansas.

A member of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, the Panthers finished 6-3 in the league and 21-12 overall.

One factor that might help such a young team is that seven of their first eight matches are at home.

“Through the first four days of practice, we are a lot further ahead than we have even been on day four during my 15 years as head coach,” Iverson said. “We’re doing things right now that we’ve never done this early.”

Another aspect that has contributed to the rapid development of the Lady Norse is the athleticism of all the players.

“We thought we would be athletic going into the preseason, so our athleticism is about what we thought is was,” Iverson said. “I think the thing we’re a little bit surprised with is our overall volleyball skills.

“We’re spending a whole lot less time with skill development than we have in the past,” Iverson said. “That has allowed us to really focus on team concepts which makes me feel really good about where we are right now.”