Posted: Friday, August 9th 2013 at 1:49pm
Volleyball: For many area teams future is now, as 2013 gets underway
By Morgan Lee Editor
Buford volleyball will look to pick up where it left off in 2012 when the Lady Wolves reached the Class AAA championship bracket. / photo: David McGregor
RABBITTOWN -- Ted Deppe’s squad returns just two seniors; Hadli Daniels will start three freshmen; and Randi Orr has no seniors and just one junior to turn to amongst her varsity’s starting line-up.
So why are all of these area coaches so thrilled about the 2013 high school volleyball season?
It’s because, in this fast-growing sport, youth doesn’t always equate to inexperience anymore.
Thanks to the proliferation of club volleyball teams and players, teams like East Hall, Buford and Gainesville know they can now begin to reload their programs, rather than begin a complete rebuilding effort after the loss of strong senior classes.
“Every starter I’ve got played club volleyball this summer,” said Lady Vikings coach Ted Deppe, who led his team to a program-best 30-15 record, including East Hall’s first state playoff appearance, last season. “That’s a first for our team, but it’s the only way to be competitive.”
Fielding players that now have more than just a part-time interest in the sport has been a big reason for the increased presence of northeast Georgia’s programs in the postseason. Beyond Buford and East Hall, Gainesville made the Class AAAAA second round last season, while Flowery Branch (Class AAAAA), Chestatee (AAAA), Johnson (Area 8-AAAA champion), Rabun County (AA), Jefferson (AA) and Lakeview (A) each played their way into their respective state playoff brackets.
“I love that the players are getting experience year-round,” said Daniels, who coached Buford to the Class AAA championship bracket last season -- reaching the final eight of the playoffs. “Even our middle school players are getting involved in club ball; I would say 75 percent of them play year-round.”
It’s also why Daniels is comfortable throwing three freshmen into Buford’s starting line-up.
“The freshmen we have coming in are crazy athletic; and they know the sport,” said Daniels, who believes they will make perfect compliments to veteran standouts like Maggie Roper.
Gainesville, meanwhile, will almost rely solely on underclassmen, with just one junior amongst a starting line-up that includes one sophomore and four freshmen.
“We graduated six seniors and all my starters from last year, but I’m highly encouraged from what I’ve seen,” said Orr, who adds the growth of the sport -- both in her own program -- and throughout northeast Georgia has been tremendous in her six years with the school.
“It’s becoming a lot more popular, and it’s going to get going strong,” Orr said. “When I started out there wasn’t a lot of knowledge about this sport at the school, but now we’ve got the right people in the right places, and it’s really exciting to see how much it’s grown.”
That growth has helped Gainesville not only through a transition in the program but to also deal with mother nature this summer, as the high school gym dealt with flooding issues thanks to persistent and heavy rains -- forcing a reshuffling of practice times and locations.
It has required a level of dedication from players that area coaches are coming to expect, especially from athletes that are beginning to earn collegiate offers.
The Lady Vikings will need Long and Hix at their best this season in an Area 5 that includes some strong programs such as North Hall and West Hall -- not to mention Buford and state powers St. Pius and Blessed Trinity, which played each other for the Class AAA crown in 2012 (Blessed Trinity winning in straight sets).
North Hall, featuring senior setter Kristina Gregory, along with outside hitter Julie Daniels and middle hitter Jen Mullican, is also gunning to get back into the postseason on the strength of a solid junior class.
“We essentially have about five programs competing for two spots, because you know Blessed Trinity and Pius are going to take two of the (four) state playoff spots,” Deppe said.
Yet with the continued growth of the sport, Deppe hopes to see teams in northeast Georgia pulling closer and closer to the Atlanta-area private schools in ability.
“It’s growing and continuing to grow,” Deppe said. “Our kids have bought into our program, and our ultimate goal is to win and advance deep into state. And I believe our kids can do something special this season.”
That area coaches feel that way speaks volumes about volleyball and its surge in northeast Georgia.
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