Veteran West Bladen head coach Gaye Davis has seven freshmen. East Bladen first-year head coach Sara Ward has eight players.
Those numbering elements don’t diminish the optimism for both coaches, who agree Fairmont and South Columbus are the expected front-runners in Three Rivers Conference volleyball this fall. The season starts this week, with East Bladen hosting Hobbton on Tuesday, and West Bladen traveling to Fayetteville Westover on Wednesday.
“I’m not quite sure,” Davis said of her expectations. “We’ve got a lot of new girls. We’ve got seven freshmen, only four returning varsity players.”
The eighth-year mentor believes a bit of rebuilding will go well. Her daughter, senior Raegan Davis, is among the returnees and the lone travel-ball player. She’s joined by senior Caroline Davis, no relation, senior Callie Lewis and junior Lexie Corrothers in providing the Knights’ nucleus.
West Bladen was 10-12 a season ago, missing the playoffs.
”Raegan is a left-handed setter, was third in the conference as a blocker and hitter,” the head coach said. “Lexie is strong outside, very athletic. Caroline is my defensive specialist. Callie is a role player.”
Defense, she said, will determine wins and losses.
“We’ll be competitive,” Davis said. “Just the talent that I have, that’s come in and what they’ve done the last two years. The varsity is really working well as a team. JV is rebuilding, a lot of new players. Two are returners, the rest are newbies.
“We work hard, and learn together. They’ll get there.”
Ward echoes similar sentiments.
”I’ve got a small team compared to years in the past, but a very talented team,” Ward said.”I have eight players on the varsity and a manager.
“I like coaching small. It’s good to have depth on the bench, no doubt.”
But with just eight, everyone will see plenty of time. The junior varsity numbers seven.
Senior Sarah Johnson is the lone senior and was the top blocker a year ago. She’s joined by juniors Graycyn Martin, Cybil Campbell, Ruth Ward, Lorna Mendell and Lila McDuffie, and sophomores Kayleigh Raynor and Katie Evans. Junior Abbie Cross is injured, serving as a manager and may join the team later in the season.
“Lorna and Sarah are our two middle hitters,” Ward said. “They’re both tall. I will depend on them to cover a lot of ground on that net when it comes to hitting and blocking. I’ve got some strong outside hitters like Cybil, Ruth, Graycyn. Here again, they can all play the back row.”
Ward, assisted by Danielle Hatcher, said the versatility will be an asset.
”I’ve got athleticism and they’re well-rounded, and they’re going to have to be,” Ward said. “Our success depends on everybody showing up.”
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or email@example.com. Twitter: @alanwooten19.