The 2020 season began with uncertainty and ended abruptly for the Bethlehem Christian Academy volleyball team, as COVID-19 cases kept the Knights from competing in the state playoffs after they had qualified for the tournament.

That premature conclusion to last year is in part fueling the Knights this season, coach Karen Carlyle said, as they make a run at a GISA Region 4 title and look to qualify for the eight-team Class AAA state tournament in October.

“Our goal is to win a region title this year, period. And I truly believe it is 100-perce possible,” said Carlyle, whose team was scheduled to open its regular season Tuesday, Aug. 10, at Cedar Shoals with a pair of matches against the Jaguars and Lake Oconee Academy. “We just have to keep our focus on the goal and not get caught up in the little things that can happen on the court. This year, we plan to finish strong. Honestly, there's no other option for this team. They are hungry for a title and are willing to do whatever is needed to get one.”

BCA returns only two starters this year, but Carlyle still likes the makeup of the team, pointing to the flexibility of several players to move around at different positions on the court and the fact that most of the Knights joined club teams in the offseason to gain more playing experience.

“(Their) getting their hands on a volleyball in the offseason has been huge,” Carlyle said. “There is a change in our program this year. More girls are becoming invested in volleyball and understanding it takes work in the offseason to be successful. (And) we have an extremely talented JV team, which makes the future bright for the VolleyKnights.”

On the varsity this year, Carlyle said she is expecting a big year from a pair of strong junior outside hitters in Amy Davison and Kate Broom. She said that sophomore setter Merrit Meaders put together a solid offseason, freshman Anna Claire Adolphson has solidified a spot in the starting lineup, and junior Sydney Harrison has improved her all-around game while senior libero Ellie Jones will lead the Knights’ defensive efforts.

Elsewhere on the roster, seniors Grace Fort and Gracie Wall are in their second year of playing volleyball and have made progress, while juniors Zoey Prather and Daley Browning and freshman Shae Britt all will be counted on to rotate in with playing time.

Carlyle likes her team’s chances at having a successful year because of the improvement she has seen in the strength of its attacks on offense, along with a heavy focus on defense and receiving serves and shots. Ultimately, she said, team unity may be the Knights’ biggest strength this fall.

This is probably one of the closest teams I have ever coached, and it shows on the court,” Carlyle said. “They are learning to trust each other and keep each other up when on the court. They are playing for each other and not just for themselves. My players know their gifts come straight from God and whatever we do, we do for His honor for all He has given us.”

BCA’s next scheduled match is Thursday, Aug. 12, when it is set to host Putnam County at 5:30 p.m.

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