Crystal Colley is starting to see a lot of the same faces on the volleyball court and hopes her Jackson County volley Panthers can build on that continuity.
“I feel like we’re finally building up on the program,” said Colley, who enters her third year as head coach. “The same girls are returning … The junior varsity girls are going to varsity. I’m finally getting the same girls over and over.”
The season starts Aug. 14 at East Jackson.
Jackson County is coming off a 4-29 campaign last year. The program is growing in numbers, though, as evidenced by the 35 to 40 girls who tried out.
“That’s something going into my third year that I’m proud of,” said Colley, a former three-year varsity player for Jackson County who was on the school’s 2001 team that advanced to the state Elite Eight. “We’ve got more girls trying out and more younger players are getting involved.”
Colley reports a successful voluntary offseason program, in which five girls emerged as leaders: senior setter Samantha Kenneth, senior middle hitter Breanna Chapman, junior outside hitter Jasmine Williams, junior outside hitter Rachel Smith and junior middle hitter Katie Ruddick.
The summer session included Jackson County winning two matches at a camp at Johnson High School. Colley points to at least one area in which the Panthers have improved as the fall season opener nears.
“We’re getting stronger on our serving,” she said. “Our serving percentages are higher and our aces have been improved.”
The team also seeks to improve its on-court communication.
“We’re opening up to the ball and trusting each other on the court,” Colley said.
The hope is that the offseason strides show up in the win column this season. This year’s mission: to finish above .500.
“Our goal is to have a winning season this year and to continue to improve our stats,” Colley said.
Jackson County will have to get used to some change as it seeks that goal. The team moves to Region 8-AA/A this season, which includes East Jackson and Jefferson.
“I’m really looking forward to our region and the matches we have on our schedule,” Colley said.
Overall, the future is looking brighter for a Jackson County volleyball program that’s trying to regain its footing.
“I am proud of the work the girls have done this summer, and I have enjoyed watching their knowledge of the game grow,” Colley said. “I am excited about the leadership of my returning players and the dedication and skill growth of my younger players.”