Freshmen athletes usually don't make huge contributions to a team before the season begins. Across Columbia County, most underclassmen spent the past week simply trying to make the team.
At Evans High School three years ago, a pair of freshmen made a lasting impression that is felt by the volleyball team this season. It started when head coach C.C. Armstrong decided to call it quits.
"I kept saying that was my last year, but all the girls and coaches wouldn't let me," Armstrong said. "It was when Aiden (Yeager) and Katie (Roon) were on the team as freshmen. They said 'Don't you see the girls you have?' They wouldn't let me leave."
Three years later, Armstrong is still the Lady Knights' coach, and Yeager and Roon are seniors. Five other seniors also are on the roster, making this season's Evans volleyball team the most experienced team in the county.
With so much senior leadership, Armstrong said, the preseason attitude is one of excitement and anticipation.
"It's either now or never," she said. "When they want it this bad, it's unstoppable."
Yeager, who stood at 5 feet 11 inches as a freshman, now tops out at 6 feet 3 inches. Many of her teammates aren't far behind. Though most of Evans' opponents last season couldn't see past the team's height, Armstrong saw something beyond stature during preseason workouts.
"This year people are going to see the greed in their eyes," she said. "A kill is going to make a sound. Someone's going to feel it. We had that some last year. This year it's going to be intentional."
The team's first test will come soon. Before the end of August, the Lady Knights will face area rivals Greenbrier and Lakeside high schools. At the end of the season, only two of the three volleyball powerhouses will advance to the state playoffs after competing in the Area 3-AAAA Tournament.
This year, that win-or-go-home tournament will be held at Evans.
The Lady Knights' season will begin Thursday with home matches against the Academy of Richmond County and Hephzibah High School.
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