What will unfold

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, August 13, 2014

0813 spt-Dee Gantt

Straughn’s Dee Gantt digs the ball during practice Monday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

SHS girls will be back in action in 4A, Area 2

Straughn’s volleyball team may be stepping into new territory as the Lady Tigers begin a new season in Class 4A, but head coach Daniel Rodgers said the girls are ready to see what will unfold this year.

“We’re excited,” Rodgers said. “In 4A, it’s going to be different territory.”

SHS matches up with Ashford, Headland and rival, Andalusia in Class 4A, Area 2, and Rodgers said the caliber of competition will be just about the same as last year.

“I’ve heard about Ashford, and they had a good squad last year and lost a few off of it,” he said. “I don’t know much about Headland. Andalusia’s always going to be a good game. We didn’t get to play them (the Lady Bulldogs) last year, so it’s going to be fun and exciting to play in that atmosphere, especially with area on the line. We’re looking forward to it.”

Area matches for the Lady Tigers will be held Thurs., Oct. 2 against the Lady Bulldogs and HHS in a tri-match at Andy; and Oct. 7 against Ashford and the Lady Bulldogs at Straughn.

Additionally, the Lady Tigers are set to play Ashford and Headland in single matches in September because both opponents offered a junior varsity and middle school contest, Rodgers said.

Most of Straughn’s matches this season include teams that are either in or below the 4A classification.

Rodgers said he tried to make the schedule to help the girls get better. For example, if SHS played a decent team last season, he made sure to reschedule that particular team for 2014.

“Brantley was tough last year,” he said. “They have some good athletes. Kinston was solid last year. We’ve got T.R. Miller, who is going to be decent. There’s Opp, too. We’ve got some teams that I really feel like will hopefully bring out the best in us.”

Straughn will be led this year by seniors Paige Taylor, Jacie Williamson and Katelyn Kinsaul.

Rodgers said two of the three seniors were picked last year to be team captains.

“They bring back a lot of leadership,” Rodgers said. “Those girls, they know what it’s like to play on the big stage with basketball and softball. Even last year, when we made it to Montgomery for the Super Regional. I’m hoping that between their experience and playing in those games in other sports on top of their leadership, that they’ve shown to have, that they can help this team jell. That’s my biggest concern this year is them playing as one.”

Rodgers said so far, the girls seem like they like each other and have established good chemistry.

“I want that to continue,” he said. “I preach to them and tell them that Andalusia, Headland and Ashford — those teams have the exact same goals you have. What are you doing different to ensure that you’ve been successful and can obtain those goals, not just you as a team are going for?”

Position wise, Rodgers said Kinsaul and Sarah Langford will be the setters; Williamson and sophomore Ashley Hughes will be the middle hitters; Courtney Rogers will be the libero; Taylor and freshman, Hannah Lawless will be the right side hitters; juniors Dee Gantt and Lexie Cottle will be outside hitters; and juniors Meredith Rogers and Aneissa Coursey will be defensive specialists.

Just last week, Rodgers said he sat down with the girls and asked what their main goal is this season.

The coach said the girls want to make it to the Elite 8 State Tournament.

“I want us to play every game like there is something on the line,” he said. “I want us to play with the best of our ability. If we can play one game, one set at a time, and play the best we can play, all of that other stuff will take care of itself. I just want us to play well at all times.”

The Lady Tigers open up their season on Aug. 28 at Opp.