Woodland volleyball players are in their “ready” stance, as they participate in a drill during a recent practice that coach Geri Wright said “helps remind them to stay low to get the ball.” (Staff Photo: Gabriel Stovall)
Some of the best volleyball in the state has been played in the Southern Crescent area over the last couple of years — especially in Henry and Fayette counties.
Whitewater won its second title in the last four seasons. Eagle’s Landing Christian is just two years removed from claiming its own Championship in Class A. And even the schools that didn’t host state title hardware were far more successful than most.
Woodland, for instance, may have been the best team in the state not to win a championship in 2012, while Ola, if in an easier region, perhaps could’ve finished on top.
With the new season just around the corner, everyone’s records are reset and championship hopes and dreams are revived. We take quick, capsulized look at the progress of Henry county volleyball squads as the 2013 campaign approaches:
Dutchtown: The Bulldogs’ 12-15 record last year may not be indicative of the kind of improvement they saw, especially in the middle of the season. Coach Helen Moncrief’s team found a couple of streaky moments that showed some promise — and Dutchtown did break with an even 4-4 record in Region 4-AAAA to finish fifth behind Riverdale — but nobody was catching Woodland or Jonesboro last year.
This year, both the Wolfpack and Cardinals may be rebuilding a bit after heavy graduation losses. Five seniors from last year’s team are no longer present, but a good compliment of new juniors and seniors should provide a nucleus for the Bulldogs to have some success.
ELCA: Katrina Hegeman’s bunch took a bit of a, perhaps, expected downturn after the 2011 state title squad. The Lady Chargers followed up their championship season with a 20-21 record in 2012, although they finished 7-4 in Region 3-A play.
Inexperience is no longer as big an issue for ELCA, and Alayna Carrondi, who was a freshman in 2011, will be one who can fill in the experience gap for the Chargers. ELCA opens its season Tuesday with a 5 p.m. home tilt against 2012 Region 4-AA runner up Lovett.
Eagle’s Landing: The Golden Eagles have gotten gradually better each year with Stephanie Gagnon at the helm, starting from a 1-11 record in her first year in 2010 to a 10-18 mark last year. Eagle’s Landing only won consecutive games one time last season, when it defeated Henry County and Dutchtown in back-to-back matches on the same day.
With only three seniors graduated from last year, and some new emerging talent, Eagle’s Landing has the experience factor on their side. Their ability to move up will depend on how far — if at all — last year’s Region 4-AAAA champion and runner up, Woodland and Jonesboro, move down.
Ola: Joe Caldwell’s bunch went 29-12 last year, which would’ve been good enough to perhaps win a region title if not for the dominance of state title winner Whitewater and region runner-up McIntosh. Both schools had a whopping combined record of 101-9.
But it’s a new year, with some new expected leaders to emerge. Noell Stanton is among those. The sophomore setter has been called an unquestionable team leader by Caldwell. Also, senior Maggie Ivester will provide all around leadership as well.
Said Ivester: “We have a good group coming back, and we’re excited about the kind of team we can be this year.”
Woodland: Geri Wright’s team finished 39-4 last season with a quarterfinals finish in the state tournament, and with senior Kaitlyn Hodges returning to provide the leadership boost, Wright said she believes the Lady Wolfpack not only can return to their 2012 heights, but should.
“We want to do it, and this team is capable and can get back to where we were last season,” Wright said. Woodland and Jonesboro were Region 4-AAAA’s best teams all season long last year. It appears the two programs will be in position for a repeat region battle again in 2013.