WHEN the Jefferson High School volleyball team started its 2013 season, head coach Mike Paul had high hopes for his young group of players. Not gifted with exceeding height or experience, Paul structured a defense-centric game plan around the abilities of his athletes. The results have been far greater than he could have imagined.
“Obviously, I’m really pleased with this group,” said Paul. “They’ve gone far beyond what I thought we would do at the beginning of the year. They’ve worked hard and played good defense.”
The Lady Dragons are 27-9 with only four more matches remaining in the regular season and are ranked as the fourth overall team in class AA.
Jefferson will head into the Area 6-AA tournament on Oct. 8-10. Because there are only four schools in their area, the Dragons automatically qualify for state. But if the Dragons are able to come away with a number-one or two seed, they would secure home-court advantage for the opening round of the state playoffs.
“Getting to play in the first round of the state tournament at home was one of our goals coming into the season,” said Paul. “Obviously its very hard when the number-one and number-three teams in the state (Greater Atlanta Christian and Wesleyan) are in your area. We are fourth in the state and third in our area. That makes it tough.”
Still, with the way the Lady Dragons have been playing together this season, they certainly have a legitimate shot to win the area.
Paul cites the Dragons’ team chemistry and coachability as two contributing factors for the team’s success thus far.
“Even though they are fairly young they are used to playing with each other,” Paul said. “They work hard at practice and come every day. They are very receptive to coaching and they trust me. The things we experiment with in practice, they take to the next level and put it into our system.”
Paul also noted that his squad has a shared sense of camaraderie and are friends both on and off the court.
“This group of girls work hard together and like each other,” he said. “We haven’t had any discontent or drama. As long as we stay healthy, I think we are going to continue to be competitive. Our goal is to do the best job we can every time we go out there.”
The Lady Dragons have seen mixed results when playing teams in their area this season. They have easily dispatched with Rabun County in each of their two contests, but have narrowly fallen to Wesleyan and GAC twice this year. The Dragons will need to be at the top of their game when they travel to Rabun County on Oct. 10 for the first round of the area tournament.
Tuesday, Jefferson traveled to Wesleyan to compete in an Area 6-AA quad match.
The Lady Dragons made quick work of Rabun County in their opening match with a 2-0 (25-12, 25-11) victory. In their second match of the day, Jefferson narrowly fell to Greater Atlanta Christian 0-2 (16-25, 23-25). The Dragons recorded 40 digs and 17 kills in the contest with GAC. In its final match, Jefferson was ousted by Wesleyan 0-2 (10-25, 16-25).
“Throughout the night I felt we competed on every play and gave our best effort,” said Paul. “It’s good to play strong competition before the playoffs and we got plenty of that today.”
Abby Wood led the Dragons with 12 kills in the quad match. Grace Williamson added 10. Williamson also posted 5 aces.
Paige Watson totaled 23 assists and Madison Corbett tallied 15.
Abby Wood led the Dragons in digs with 21, while Olivia Przybysz added 20.
Jefferson will travel to Monroe-Area on Thursday for a tri-match with the Hurricanes and Johnson.