Volleyball season heats up
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
She’s not making any predictions as to what the final record will be, but Callaway High volleyball coach Precious White is confident her players will give it everything they’ve got whenever they’re on the court.
That mindset was evident on Tuesday afternoon when Callaway hung tough with LaGrange in a hard-fought match.
“We’re going to fight,” said White, who has taken over as head coach for Christina Harris. “When we played LaGrange, they were fighting. We didn’t go out easily. I’m excited to see where we’re going.”
Callaway and LaGrange were joined by Manchester in the tri-meet in Callaway’s gym.
The day began with LaGrange beating Callaway in straight sets, 25-22, 25-22.
LaGrange finished off a perfect day with a straight-sets win over Manchester, and Callaway then beat Manchester 25-13 and 25-8.
Callaway, LaGrange and Troup are all well into a season that will continue into October when the area tournaments will be held.
The top four finishers from the area tournaments will qualify for the state playoffs.
While LaGrange and Troup have the same head coaches from last season, White is a newcomer.
White began working with the players when preseason practice began on July 30, and she said they’ve made a lot of progress over the past month.
Callaway is looking to improve on its 4-17 record from a year ago.
“We’re still a work in progress, but I think the girls have come a long way from when I first saw them,” said White, whose team has won both of its area matches so far.
Assistant coach Nigel Walker worked with the players during the summer, and he said there was one camp, as well as a number of open-gym sessions.
“We wanted to have them doing something while I was running looking for coaches,” Walker said.
Walker said the improvement the players have made since they started working with White has been noticeable.
“They’re learning the fundamentals, and the rotations, and learning routines at a higher level,” Walker said. “Once it gets ingrained in them a little bit, we’ll be good to go.”
Walker added that “a lot of people are excited about the volleyball program this year. So we’re trying to use that to keep the girls motivated, and compete.”
Leading the way for Callaway are a handful of veterans, including Cheney Eubanks and Cheyenne Booker.
“We’ll be able to compete,” Walker said. “We’ve just got to recondition their minds, get them thinking like volleyball players.”
LaGrange began its season with losses to Hardaway and Shaw last week, but it bounced back to get a pair of wins on Tuesday, including the hard-fought one over Callaway.
LaGrange, which is led by veteran coach Angie Newton, is looking to build on its strong finish from a year ago.
After struggling to finish off matches in the regular season, it all came together in the area tournament.
After losing to Central-Carroll, LaGrange beat Troup in an elimination match, and it then beat Sandy Creek to qualify for state.
Most of the players from that team are back, including Chloe Beall, a senior and a multi-year starter who should be a force this season.
The bulk of LaGrange’s other players return as well, including Hannah Holcomb, Kiara Owens, Ke’Tara Brit, Cameron Jones, Mikayla Canty, and Inijah Jones.
LaGrange will be on the road against Shaw as it looks to avenge a home loss from last week.
Troup reached the second round of the state tournament in 2016 under previous coach Jodi Dowden, but an inexperienced team didn’t make it to state last year after losing to LaGrange in the area tournament.
Troup has been busy so far this season, playing 14 matches in two weeks.
Troup evened its record at 7-7 with a straight-sets win over Shaw on Tuesday.
“It’s really exciting right now,” said Leigh Bailey, Troup’s second-year head coach. “Jodi, they got to the sweet 16, so now that’s our mark. That’s our goal. This could be the team that could do it, but we have to put everything together.”
Among Troup’s top returnees is senior Anna Murphy, who leads the team with 44 kills.
The other senior, who like Murphy is a multi-year starter, is Regina Hernandez, and she has 16 kills, 38 assists, and a team-leading 13 aces.
Sophomore Landen Sheets is second on the team with 31 kills, and junior Kyla Bailey leads the team with 69 assists.
Taylor Doughman is tops on the team in the all-important digging category with 134, and Kate Moore leads the way with nine blocks.
Troup will return to action on Tuesday when it hosts region foes LaGrange and Sandy Creek.
LaGrange and Troup will play at 6 p.m.
OF NOTE: For photos from each of the volleyball teams, check out Facebook.com/LDNSports