By Dallas Bordon
Lady Raider Volleyball Coach Steve Crouse is excited about entering his second season with the team this fall.
But there will be plenty of shoes to fill in 2014, since his team lost seven seniors.
“We really lost a great senior class; we lost a lot of leadership and skilled players who understood the game.”
But a large number of girls that are showing interested in playing this fall. Nearly 35 girls showed up at a team meeting near the end of the school year and that number was not including the number of girls that will make the transition from middle to high school this fall.
And Crouse is encouraged by their enthusiasm.
“We have had a great turnout this summer and have a lot of young girls who are really interested in learning the game and getting involved with volleyball,” said Crouse. “We’re trying to progress as much as we can throughout the summer to get these young girls up to speed, but we’re really excited about the turnout and enthusiasm that we’re having so far this summer.”
Last year’s group of varsity Raiders made history by advancing to the state tournament for the first time. The Lady Raiders defeated Eastside and Lumpkin County in the region tournament to qualify for the state tournament where they lost to Locust Grove. Entering the upcoming season, the Lady Raiders will return just three of the varsity girls that made the state tournament last season.
The three returning varsity players include the height of MacKenzie LaZear, Mya Moss and the very experienced Samantha Watson. Watson was the only member of last season’s team to make the varsity squad as a freshman. Still with plenty of vacancies to be filled on varsity, the three returning players will provide next season’s squad with plenty of experience and leadership. Watson’s position as setter is a key spot on the floor because of her ability to feed hitters like LaZear and Moss at the net. Crouse’s task now will consist of filling the other seven open positions at the varsity level.
Crouse and his returning assistants Kyle Cooper and Brooke Allen are now holding summer workouts that will last until the final week of July. Mixed in the middle of workouts will be an Emmanuel camp that will be held at the middle school June 18 from 5 to 8 pm and June 19, which will be an all-day camp. The girls will also play scrimmage matches at Appalachee High School July 28, 29, and 30 leading up to tryouts, which will be held July 31 and Aug. 1. Also included in summer sessions will be a kids’ camp July 21-25 at the middle school.
The Lady Raiders’ season schedule includes eight home matches with possibly more added later.
“Stephens County has contacted us as possible added matches,” said Crouse. “This will be Stephens County’s first year of volleyball both varsity and junior varsity so we are looking to add them to the schedule.”
Last season’s Volley Raiders played limited home matches at the middle school gym due to the construction at the new high school. Crouse’s girls will be back on their own courts at the high school this coming season and are hoping for large crowds to support this season’s squad. The Volley Raiders open the season on the road at East Hall High School Aug. 14 and will open their home season Aug. 26 versus Cedar Shoals.