GRANTED IT’S a brief history, but the Jefferson volleyball program is coming off its best since the high school took up the sport in 2006.
The Dragons went 24-11 last year, winning 18-straight games at one point, and advanced to the first round of the state tournament.
“It was a lot of fun,” coach Mike Paul said. “We played really well and the kids understood their roles.”
The good news is, most of those kids are back.
The volley Dragons, who begin their season Aug. 14 in a multi-team match at East Hall, hope to continue adding to the history book with a quartet of talented juniors returning from last year’s successful campaign.
Back are Amanda Daniel (setter), Taylor Cramsey (middle hitter), Cassie Metcalf (outside hitter) and Eden Starnes (outside hitter).
Daniel, Cramsey and Metcalf have started since their freshman seasons.
“We’ve got a good core of kids,” Paul said. “But you’ve got to have six to play.”
Noticeably gone is outside Stephanie Fincher, who graduated and now plays for North Greenville (S.C.) University.
“She led us in a lot of categories,” Paul said. “Her leadership was outstanding.”
The team is still looking for another setter and a middle hitter, and depth will be an issue early on, Paul said. Those rising from the junior varsity to fill these spots must get used to the speed of the game.
But Paul hopes the four juniors — there are no seniors on the team — step up and take on the leadership role.
“I’m relying on their experience to groom some of these younger kids,” Paul said.
With the program gaining strength, Jefferson has “ramped up” its schedule with stronger opponents.
“We thought we should play people out of our area that traditionally have stronger teams.”
The pathway to state goes through the area tournament, of course. So despite the Dragons’ regular season record, it’s Jefferson’s goal to once again finish in the top four in Area 8-AA/A so it can return to the state meet.
“Obviously, our goal every year is to get out of our area and progress to state,” Paul said.
NOTES: Jefferson’s only home match in August comes Aug. 28 when it hosts six other schools.