LaGrange volleyball team finds a way
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
A short-handed LaGrange High volleyball team came together and delivered a winning performance against a cross-town foe on Thursday.
LaGrange, which was missing a handful of players following a positive Covid-19 test earlier in the week, lost to Kendrick in its first match on Thursday before bouncing back to beat Callaway in impressive fashion later in the day.
After winning the first set 25-21, LaGrange clinched the victory with a 25-19 win in the second set.
“It’s been tough,” said Tejay Dowden, LaGrange’s first-year volleyball coach. “We don’t have six girls on varsity. It was a very last-minute change, and they adjusted well.”
A handful of players from the junior-varsity team were moved up to the varsity squad, and they helped LaGrange get its first win of the season.
“That was the very first time they’d played together,” Dowden said. “Thirty minutes before that game we were putting together a lineup.”
Knowing the possibility was there that some players could end up missing time, Dowden had a plan in place.
“In the beginning when we first created our team, we created float players, which means they’re able to play up if they need to,” Dowden said. “I was thinking what if this happens, I need to have some options.”
Because of the missing players, Azaleah Straughn, Jasmine Andrews and Jymeriya Strozier were called up from the junior-varsity squad to fill out the varsity roster.
Both sets against Callaway were tight, with LaGrange making the plays at the biggest moments to secure the win.
On a team with some uncertainty, captains Carmen Lynch and Lauren Park continually came through with clutch plays.
“They’re leaders for sure,” Dowden said. “The girls look up to them a lot.”
Callaway, meanwhile, is still searching for its first win under head coach Leigh Bailey, who was the coach at Troup the past two seasons. Callaway was competitive against Kendrick and LaGrange, but it was unable to close the deal in either match.
“We’re trying to get into a rhythm, and we haven’t gotten into one yet,” Bailey said. “I feel like they can do it, and I feel like them playing together more will help.”
One of the bright spots for Callaway was the performance of Raine Hunt who had four aces, and Tiffany Bledsoe had her first block of the season.
Looking ahead, Bailey’s hope is that her players will have more success at the net after getting just five kills against LaGrange.
“I told them in the huddle, we need to have at least 15 kills,” Bailey said. “They said how many did we have, and I said five.”
Win or lose, Bailey is grateful that the games are going on during a time of uncertainty.
“At least we’re playing, and I think that’s the biggest takeaway from all of this,” Bailey said. “I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad to be playing, and (LaGrange) is glad to be playing.”
Here are the varsity players for LaGrange and Callaway:
Carmen Lynch, Lindsey Ransone, Abby Norton, Danasha Lewis, Katy Beth Bedingfield, Addie Eiland, Kensley Swift, Lauren Park, Hayliegh Sebaugh, Jenna Gynther and Lauren Woody
Jurnee Garrett, Jaidah Hale, Amoria McFarlin, Shaunna Tumlin, Haley Blair, Raine Hunt, Tiffany Bledsoe, Auneicia Hill, Tristan Bussey, Tamyra Dukes and Autumn Todd