By Gene Stanley/Correspondent
Christine Ward thinks some people will be surprised at the competitiveness of this year’s Gadsden City volleyball squad.
“This is the same group that’s been with me since the eighth grade or so,” said the GCHS head coach. “They know what I want and what I expect.
“I think it’s going to be a big year for us if they continue to push themselves and keep improving.”
A good summer of workouts helped the Titans’ chances of success.
“We did a different type of workout than in the past,” Ward said. “They have really responded and have gotten a lot stronger.”
With five seniors, Ward said that senior leadership will be a big plus in 2013.
“We’ve got a whole team of smart players and they work well together,” said Ward, who has been the Titans coach since the inception of the school in 2006. “They work together as a team, and that’s always a big factor.”
Don’t blame Jim Bogle for the smile on his face.
After all, he is coaching what is arguably the most athletic volleyball team in the history of Etowah High.
“We had a great summer of workouts and the girls are working hard,” he said. “I think most of them really enjoyed the workouts, too.”
Another reason to smile is freshman Emma Jones, who transferred from Gadsden City. The 5-10 setter has the potential to be the best volleyball player to ever come out of Attalla.
Another Jones – Amber – will also play setter. The junior moved to the position last year after an injury.
“Those two are so athletic and are such good passers that it’s just fun to watch them,” Bogle said.
The team is also young, with three seniors in Neah Meeks, Kelsey Hood and Rachel Sitz. Meeks is starting at hitter.
The rest of the starters are sophomores and juniors. But there are a lot of girls competing for playing time.
“It gives me a lot of options,” Bogle said of the depth. “But it also creates problems trying to decide who to play. On the positive side, I can move people around if someone is in a slump or injured.”
Last season, the Blue Devils got beat in the area tournament but were playing as well as any Etowah squad in recent memory.
“Right now, they’re playing as well, if not better, than they were at area tournament time last year,” Bogle said. “If they stick with it and stay the course, we have a chance to do good things.”
With a young team, second-year coach Kristin Countryman is looking less at wins and losses than to improve as a team.
“I told the girls that wins are good but we’re still in the process of building a program,” Countryman said. “I’m looking more at whether or not they’re able to work through their struggles and whether or not they give 100 percent – to volleyball, to Westbrook, to life and to God.”
The Warriors have a couple of other issues this season.
First, there will be no home games, as the gym is being remodeled.
Second, junior setter and team captain Ella Lawley injured her shoulder in July and won’t be cleared before the season starts.
“We had to redo our offense totally, to figure out how to play without Ella,” Countryman said.
Freshman Courtlyn Barber trained at setter and will play outside hitter when Lawley returns.
There are only four seniors in Lorien Welch, Kennedy Vice, Vanessa Burns and Caitlin Payne. Welch will start at outside hitter and Vice will start some on front line.
“The best thing about this year’s team is that I have 12 bona fide players,” Countryman said. “I have the luxury of being able to switch players according to who had the best week of practice and according to matchups.”