Having a squad loaded with talented seniors often leads to success. But what happens when they all graduate?
That scenario hit the volleyball squad at Greenbrier High School this season.
Last year's team finished the season 43-5 and advanced to the Georgia High School Association Elite Eight in Class AAAAA. As of Monday, Greenbrier is 18-13 this season.
"Honestly, we don't have a lot of experience on the team," longtime coach Debbie Born said. "But we didn't back off on scheduling."
The Wolfpack still faced some of the state's strongest squads in Athens, Ga., and Atlanta. Greenbrier is seeded second heading into the Region 2-AAAA Tournament.
Born said she's been able to depend on her on-court leaders, including her "one-two punch" in juniors Kayla Berns and Alex Powell.
Greenbrier runs a 5-1 formation, leaving one setter in charge of every play. Some teams run an alternate formation that includes two setters so as not to put all the pressure on one player.
"Basically, my job is to better the second ball," said Berns, who has 383 of the team's 400 assists this season. "I'm the setter, which is kind of like the quarterback of the football team. I just run a play, and they kill it."
Often, Berns' target on sets is Powell, who has a team-high 142 kills this season. Powell plays both front and back positions - she also has a team-high 278 digs - but her specialty is outside hitter.
"She's the best hitter I've ever played with because she's really consistent," Berns said. "She's not scared. When the game's close, most people will kind of ease up and want to just get it in. But I always trust Alex to kill the ball."
Powell said she enjoys the hitting aspect of the sport the most. She and Berns both play club ball with travel teams, and Powell plays primarily as an outside hitter on her club team.
She is a little shorter than the typical hitter, but it doesn't deter her.
"It's my height that can be a problem because I'm only 5-foot-8½," Powell said. "In college ball, most hitters are closer to 6 feet. I hope to train during the off-season and get my jump higher."
Berns hopes to work on her jump, too. She hopes to go to a jump set full-time, which will add a surprise factor to her repertoire. If her sets look just like her kills - she has 74, a large number for a setter - then opposing players won't know what to expect.
"I want to be a jump setter and a jump server by my senior year," Berns said. "The jump set is a lot quicker ... and I think it makes your sets a lot more consistent.
"And when I'm jumping, they don't know what's coming."
Communication is critical in volleyball, and both players say they understand each other very well on the court.
Both played together on junior varsity for two years before moving up to varsity this season.
That experience helped the pair grow closer off the court.
"Me and Kayla have been playing together for three years," Powell said. "Over that time, of course, we've gotten to be really good friends. But that communication, it's like we can read each other on the court.
"I can tell where she's going to be, and she always gives me an awesome set."
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