Coming into this season, Grovetown High School volleyball coach Amy Slagle faced what some might consider a daunting scenario.
Gone were the experienced players she had inherited from Harlem, Greenbrier and Evans when the first-year school opened last year. The seniors had graduated.
This season, the roster is filled with players who had never played volleyball before attending Grovetown.
Slagle sees it as a tremendous opportunity.
"None of these girls have played before a year ago. Never played before in (their lives). And you see what they play like now," she said. "This was exciting because this was my first group that I trained that had never played volleyball before. ... These girls on the court are my girls."
Slagle liked that none of her players had developed bad habits before she had a chance to mold them. She said she also didn't hear comments such as, "My old coach used to ... ,"
The Warriors lost their first four matches and nine of their first 11.
On Tuesday night, they lost a pair of matches to Greenbrier and Westside. However, in defeat, they showed how much they have improved over the course of a season.
Against the Wolfpack, Grovetown recovered from a 25-7 opening-game loss to hang close in the second game. The final score was 25-17.
"We lost, but it was definitely better in the second game," said Kristi Sammons, who plays the libero position. "It's been going good. We're facing good teams and trying to do our best in every game."
The game was indicative of the improvement the Warriors' program has shown, said Greenbrier coach Debbie Born.
"I wish I had that amount of talent and skill when I started the program and when I was in my second year," said Born, who started the volleyball program at Greenbrier when the school was founded in 1996 and has since won seven varsity region titles.
"They're ahead of the game, and they keep working hard," she said. "They showed a lot of good things."
Against Westside, Grovetown nearly rallied for a victory.
The Patriots won Game 1, 25-15, then the Warriors turned the tables, winning the second game by the same score.
In the decisive Game 3, Grovetown got up early, but fell 25-20.
"My mind just races because we're all pumped up and we want to win," setter Morgan Van Deventer said of being in a close match. "When we don't, it's just a letdown because we work so hard to get there."
Slagle said the team is athletic and quick to pick up on new concepts. The players simply need more experience, she noted.
"I think our biggest problem is we don't have a lot of big hitters, but we are honing those skills," Slagle said. "At the beginning of the year ... they were just overwhelmed. Since then, they've improved 100 percent.
"I can't imagine what the next couple of years are going to be for them."
Slagle stressed that the opportunity to face off with established, successful programs such as Greenbrier is valuable for an up-and-coming program like hers.
"They're a great program," she said. "From the couple times I've played Greenbrier, I feel like I want (my team) to get used to that. I want to play teams like that so we'll get ready for that type of play."
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