It hasn't been a typical offseason for the Lakeside volleyball team. Danielle Gonzalez has been in charge.
"We had summer workouts at 7 a.m. and there were at least 15 girls per day," she said. "My mission this summer was to enforce the fundamentals in volleyball and get them in shape. I think this is way more serious and organized than it used to be around here."
Gonzalez is beginning her first year as Lakeside's volleyball coach. She'll take over a program that's seen three different head coaches during the past three years. Adding stability to the team started during the summer.
"I had them in the weight room in the mornings," she said. "I definitely got some crazy looks from some football coaches."
From the weight room to spin classes to yoga to timed mile runs, the Lady Panthers have had an offseason they won't soon forget.
"It was intense - much more organized this summer," Lakeside senior Kirtley Hitt said. "It was different so everyone was kind of cautious and it was a little overwhelming at first."
Gonzalez said the girls eventually were sold on the new program. It's a style of coaching she learned in recent years as a club coach in Atlanta, a college athlete at Georgia State and during her high school days in Sarasota, Fla.
"There you have middle school programs and boys volleyball programs," Gonzalez said. "I see this as an opportunity to spread more interest in this area. In terms of the nation, Georgia is really far behind when it comes to volleyball."
Gonzalez isn't the first area high school coach to make those comments. She said it was a little bit of a culture shock when she first realized area volleyball matches don't include big crowds and a cheerleading squad.
If she gets her way, that's all about to change at Lakeside.
"That's one of the big goals this year - to increase interest," Gonzalez said. "It's a gradual thing that might not happen immediately, but we're going to have our volleyball team attend football games and cross country meets and stuff like that, so hopefully they'll come see us play."'
No doubt the crowds will be there for Lakeside's first matches of the year. The Lady Panthers open the regular season on Thursday at home with nonregion contests against archrival Greenbrier and Richmond Academy beginning at 5 p.m.
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