VOLLEYBALL season is right around the corner and the Lady Eagles are already counting down the days to their first match on Aug. 15.
In fact, the East Jackson coaching staff has had the Eagles hard at work, conditioning under assistant coach Clark Rainwater since late May. Thirteen Eagles also recently attended a three-day camp hosted at EJCHS by Athens Volleyball.
Head coach Tim Thomas said the summer preparation could be vital to the success of his squad.
“I think that (camp) was really beneficial,” said Thomas. “It was a comfortable environment in our home gym, where the girls could feel at home and still learn a lot at the same time.”
Thomas said he’s excited about the upcoming season and hopes to get the program back on track after last year’s disappointing 10-27 season.
“We had a situation last year where we took a step backwards,” he said. “We had been progressing forwards – slowly, but there was progression every season until we took a big step backwards last year because we had some drama problems. Fortunately for us, those people are no longer going to be involved.”
Two returning seniors to this year’s squad are Madison Mealor and Harley Howington, but the rest of the roster will be determined after tryouts next week. Thomas also noted that two eighth graders have been training with the squad this summer.
“With eighth graders coming to the high school next year, we’ve been excited about getting more younger kids involved because they can play with the JV,” Thomas said.
Thomas says he has a strong base of about six girls who he wants to build the team around, but he is still somewhat concerned about attendance this summer.
“Our numbers really have been down this summer from what we have seen in the past, so I’m a little concerned that we may not have a lot of girls playing on our JV,” he said. “But that’s something we will see after tryouts next week.”
Thomas says his biggest goal with the team this year is simply to assemble a team that enjoys playing together.
“We’ve had seasons where we tried to set goals of so many wins, a win percentage, or making the area or state tournaments or whatever,” he said. “But this year, with the girls that we have, the goal for me as a coach is going to be putting together a team that enjoys being together, that we enjoy working with, and a team that wants to come out and play.”
In that regard, Thomas seems already to be well on his way to his goal, noting that his team is already enjoying camaraderie.
“This group that we are working with now – more so than with any I’ve ever seen – really feels like family,” added Thomas. “They all feel like a bunch of sisters. They are gelling extremely well and have extremely good chemistry. If we put them in the right places and they like being there, the wins will come.”
Thomas will see if that chemistry indeed translates to wins when the Lady Eagles open their season on Aug. 15, at a quad match at Madison County with Jackson County and Gainesville.