Volleyball gets underway

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By Mike Forster

The three county volleyball teams open up the season with high aspirations.

After struggling through last year’s less-than satisfactory campaigns, the three teams start out 0-0, just like everyone else.

They also seem to have a lot of talent, which bodes well for any playoff hopes.

Last season was characterized by Brookville’s undefeated run through the Seminole District and by the county lasses struggling. Liberty was the top finisher, taking third place in the regular season.

Both Liberty and Jefferson Forest advanced to Regional play. Liberty topped Heritage and Jefferson Forest dispatched Amherst in the first round of the Seminole playoffs.

Those wins were certainly morale boosters, as the Cavs (8th place) and Minettes (7th) had been the District’s doormats the year before.

So, the question is whether the two can continue their trajectories and continue to rise in the ranks of the Seminole.

Of course, defending champ Brookville and a loaded Rustburg team should have plenty to say about that.

The other question is whether the Golden Eagles can leverage a very tall and talented front line into District success.

A pair of All-District first teamers returns, in the form of Tori Blanks from Forest and Libby Tomlin, of Liberty. The two players could not be more different. Blanks is a diminutive sparkplug who prowls the backline, making dig after dig. Tomlin is a powerful presence up front. Her trademark killing stroke has broken many a heart.

Other returning All-District players include the following, who received honorable mention last year: Cori Falls and Sam Sublett of Staunton River; and Jordan Hawkins, Brooke Hutchison and Megan Prothero of Jefferson Forest.

It should be noted that both Hawkins and Prothero were honored as freshman. Don’t be fooled by the JF roster. Although there are four sophomores on the team, they are mostly quite experienced at the varsity level.

Oddly, there is but one junior on the entire JF team: Kelsey Stapleton. With seven additional sophomores playing JV, however, it looks as though JF Head Coach Steve Mills will be walking in the tall cotton for some time.

If you want to get your fill of volleyball early in the season, the Liberty Invitational (this Saturday) might be your ticket. The tournament, which will be held at the Minette gym, features Spotswood, Amherst and Appomattox, in addition to Liberty.

Play begins at 9 a.m.

Monday, Aug. 25 could be named “Welcome to my world” day. First, Staunton River hosts William Byrd. Byrd is a major rival of the Golden Eagles. The Terriers also reside in the Blue Ridge District, which is where the Eagles will play next season.

Second, E.C. Glass visits Forest on that same Aug. 25 evening. Glass is already a major rival of the Lady Cavs. The Hilltoppers will be joining the Seminole District next year.

District play opens on Sept. 4, when Liberty travels to Staunton River and Jefferson Forest visits Heritage.

Staunton River Head Coach Rich Northrup is excited about his team, naturally, and the prospects of seeing it play in the new Golden Eagle gym.

Currently constrained for practice space, Northrup offered his charges a number of options for when they would practice. It’s a good sign of dedication that the team selected a 6 a.m. option. “They voted for it. Not me,” laughed Northrup.

Sublett and Sarah Woodford are team captains for the Lady Eagles, who feature 5 seniors, 6 juniors and a sophomore.

“There is more team unity this year,” noted Northrup.

Liberty welcomes a new head coach, Bonita Roberts. Coach Roberts comes to the Minettes from Nottaway County.

So far, she likes what she sees out of the team. “They are very strong fundamentally,” she observed. “Coach Mattson got them to a good place.”

Lori Mattson was the varsity head coach for the previous two seasons before stepping down to pursue a role in school administration.

Coach Roberts feels that the Minettes will have a balanced attack.

Assisted by Coach Ralph Meylis and JV head Susan Nicholson, Roberts seems to have gotten right in the swing of things.

“We just need to get our game a bit quicker, to speed it up,” said Roberts. “They’re ready to take it to the next level.”