The 2014 volleyball season has the potential to be one where county schools dominate their respective areas.
In Area 2-AAAAA, Greenbrier High School is coming off a year in which they went 28-15, were area champions and advanced to the Georgia High School Association quarterfinals. They return the majority of their squad and could be considered the favorites.
Before they wear the crown once more however, they’ll have to wade through a Lakeside squad that was 28-10 a year ago, an Evans team that came on strong at the 2013 area tournament and made the GHSA Class AAAAA state playoffs and a perenially-tough Grovetown bunch.
Over at Augusta Preparatory Day School, head coach Rich Bland loses some key pieces from his 2013 team that went 31-4, won their region and were the Georgia Independent School Association Class AAA State runners-up. And a championship run will be tougher as GISA will crown just one state champion instead of multiple ones in past years. Bland still likes his chances with the players he has coming back and those coming up.
“Expectations are high,” Bland said. “I think one of the successes of the program is we talk to the girls every season. We’ve got two goals in this order: win the region and two, win state. The first one helps the second one.”
The Area 2-AAAAA season begins Tuesday as Greenbrier plays host to Lakeside and newest area member Cross Creek. On Thursday, the Lady Wolfpack will take on Grovetown and Westside.
“That first week is going to be a good indicator if not how the season’s going, then how practices will go,” said first-year coach Nicole Abbott. “We have those two tri-matches and then just a week of practices.”
Among Abbott’s returners is senior DeJhana Cotton, the 2012 Area Player of the Year and 2013 All-Area First Teamer who recently committed to play for Clemson University. Abbott likes the mindset that her whole team is bringing in.
“Their question for me is ‘Do you think we can make it past the Elite 8?’” said Abbott, adding that whether they achieve their goal depends on the type of work they put in.
Lakeside coach Moe McCormack loses four players from her team, but has numbers out. Others will have to step in quickly to help while hitter Holly Sweeting gets to 100 percent recovering from knee surgery.
“We’ve got a solid group,” said McCormack. “A number of our JV kids have been playing club ball and are very ready to step in. Until Holly (Sweeting) gets back to full speed, we’ll be a little more inexperienced. Those will be early-season experience-gaining things. It’ll work out well, we’ll be very deep. Right now, we’re young.”
Evans head coach Lauren Farr said her schedule is a tough one, but likes the makeup of her team and hopes for a return to the state playoffs.
“We are very optimistic about our season,” said Farr. “We will have a very experienced core of returning varsity players (8) with a few rising players from last year’s JV. Based upon what I have seen so far, our offense will be formidable.”
Grovetown head coach Amy Slagle says she has some players that could play at the next level and thinks the team has a good chance at being successful.
“I am really looking forward to this season,” Slagle said. “We have a great group of hard working committed young ladies that have talent and height so potentially it could be a great year for us.”