Nicknames in the world of sports don't always fully capture an athlete's skill. That's not the case with Augusta Prep's Laura Kopald.
"One of the nicknames we use with her is The Natural," Augusta Prep volleyball coach Rich Bland said. "She's just an athlete. She has a high sports IQ. I can give her instructions mid-game, and she'll execute."
It's not just Kopald's natural ability in volleyball that has earned her that nickname. Kopald also dominates on the basketball court.
In fact, the Augusta Prep senior didn't do much with volleyball until she was urged to give it a shot by her friends and coach.
"She hadn't even picked up a volleyball until her freshman year," Bland said.
Now she's one of the best volleyball players at a school known for its dominance in the sport. Augusta Prep (19-3) is ranked GISA Class AAA No. 2 and will enter this weekend's state tournament as a No. 1 seed.
Kopald doesn't deserve 100 percent of the credit, but she's done more than her fair share.
"She's probably about 70 percent of our offense," Bland said. "She's a tremendous amount of our offense. When we played North Augusta she had 23 kills."
It was no fluke. As a junior Kopald recorded 19 kills in the GISA Class AAA state tournament finals match. Augusta Prep won that match to claim its first-ever volleyball state title last year.
The Lady Cavaliers hope to match that feat this weekend when the GISA Class AAA volleyball state tournament returns to Augusta Prep. It won't be easy.
Three of the four teams who reached last year's state semifinals are in the same half of the bracket in this year's state tournament. Augusta Prep beat out Pinecrest in the state finals last year.
This season the two teams would meet in the second round.
"We have a very tough road," Bland said. "If we can get through that second-round game, the Final Four match up may be easier for us."
Augusta Prep will begin first-round play on Friday with a match against LaGrange at 3:30 p.m.
The state semifinals will be played at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and the championship match is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.