Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Last year the North Augusta High School varsity volleyball team missed the playoffs.
The team was in a must-win mode in the final week, but was unable to get the two wins it needed, finishing at 13-10 overall.
Under fourth-year coach Lindsay Tucker, this year’s squad looks to get back to the playoffs.
Gone is traditional power Aiken, who will now play its games in Class AAA, as well as Dutch Fork.
In comes Irmo and newcomer River Bluff, which at least on paper, looks to be a less difficult path.
Tucker’s squad will return many players who saw significant time last year, and the team is still relatively young. Three seniors, including all-around player Desmonet Wilson, front row anchor Cydney Matthews and libero Raynee Spires, will lead this year’s team.
“I’m not too top heavy there,” Tucker said of having upperclassmen. “But I will rely heavily on them this year. I’ve got three key positions covered by my seniors.”
Spires said she was excited for the new plays that were being put into action.
“I’m excited for that and learning how to play together,” she said.
Wilson was generally excited about the season as a whole.
“We have a lot of girls who are willing to play, and put forth the effort,” she said. “I really think we’re going to go far this year if we continue to grow.”
Mathews is looking forward to working with the new players.
“I’m sad this is my last year,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of younger girls step up, and I’ve seen a lot of improvement in a lot of these girls since they came up.”
Tucker said she believed River Bluff would be a strong replacement.
“The Columbia area always has strong club teams,” she said. “I haven’t heard much about Irmo, so I’m not sure how that’s going to play out. We’re definitely going to try to capitalize on Aiken being gone.”
Tucker is expecting big things from Mathews’ younger sister, Destiny, a sophomore who will play outside.
“The jamboree was her first varsity experience, so she got a lot of her jitters out,” she said. “Once she gets comfortable she’ll have some great offensive plays and hits. Molly Greenway will play middle for us, and she has a lot of club experience. She just has to get use to the varsity level, and this level of competition. She’s a really smart volleyball player, so she’ll do well for us.”
Another key returner is junior Alli Bell, who was the team’s main setter. Tucker said that Bell is seeing more time in the back row this year, so her other setters can get experience, but that she will play the team in whatever way gives them the best chance to win.
The team, as it has shown at practice, is very laid back. Tucker said that is part of having a squad that features a freshman, three sophomores and seven juniors in addition to the three seniors.
“We have moments where I am thinking that we should be playing much smarter than this,” she said. “As the year goes on, they’ll get use to playing beside each other and make some smarter plays. Defensively, we really need to buckle down and work to be competitive in our region.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star.