NAVIGATING a brutal early-season schedule hasn’t been easy on the Jefferson High School volleyball team. Then again, that’s the point.
“We’ve played a heck of a schedule,” coach Mike Paul said. “It’s going to pay off for us.”
Jefferson is off to an 8-6 start, with its losses coming to highly-regarded programs like Sandy Creek, Hebron Christian Academy, Prince Avenue, Athens Academy, North Oconee and Oconee County.
The Dragons snapped a rare three-match skid this past Thursday, beating area foe East Jackson (25-7, 25-12) after losing to Oconee County, another area opponent, earlier that day.
“It was really a good feeling,” Paul said of beating East Jackson. “We had lost three in a row, and this team is not used to doing that. But, then again, the teams we’re losing to … they’re good every year.”
In the Oconee County match, Jefferson fell in three close sets, 25-23, 22-25, 23-25. As evident by the nip-and-tuck battle, Paul said he felt like his team and the Warriors are “pretty evenly matched.”
“Oconee is a really good team,” Paul said. “They helped us out early. They had a few mistakes. We took advantage of that in the first set, and then we gave them back to them in the second set.”
The loss sets up an interesting rematch with the Warriors in September. Since Jefferson won a set against Oconee County, the Dragons can earn the tiebreaker over the Warriors in the area standings if they sweep them in two sets.
Paul, who guided Jefferson to a 34-10 record a year ago and a Final Four finish in Class AA, said setters Paige Watson and Madison Corbett have provided stability as the Dragons have endured this tough stretch.
“Our setters are holding us together right now,” Paul said.
The coach noted strong performances off the bench from Grace Haney and Mary Carson.
Jefferson — which beat non-area foe Loganville Tuesday in a best of five match (25-19, 25-12, 25-13) — returns to Area 8-AAA action this week against Hart County and Morgan County at home Thursday.
“It’s not going to get any easier for us,” Paul said. “Both those schools will be good and athletic.”
Paul said his team isn’t playing its best volleyball right now, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I’m kind of glad we’re not,” he said. “We want to play our best in October, not now.”
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