Sonoraville Volleyball vs. Calhoun

Sonoraville’s Abby Chambers (#12) prepares to block a spike from Calhoun’s Anna George in a match during the 2018 season.

Lady Jackets Volleyball will soon return to Calhoun, with the first match of the season less than two weeks away. In this edition of season’s preview, we go through a quick review of 2018 and give you a snapshot of Calhoun Volleyball for 2019.

Last year, the Lady Jackets fell in the GHSA Elite Eight, finishing 2018 at 45-11. During the season, Calhoun recorded 39 match sweeps.

“Last two years, I would consider us one of the very best public school teams in the state,” Calhoun head coach Randy Rice said. “Off of that team, I lost five seniors. This year, I have two seniors.”

Rice’s 2019 varsity roster is mainly comprised of juniors, along with the two aforementioned seniors and one sophomore. The two seniors are Jenna Santori and Anna George.

“This group, they’re best friends,” Rice said. “They’re buddies and I think that comes from that team bonding.”

Rice said junior libero Ashlyn Brzozoski is set to be a team captain for the upcoming season.

“She digs that ball up (and) she’s an energizer,” Rice said. “She runs all over the court.”

Rice said the team is starting to meet up regularly again, as most of the girls are involved in travel volleyball or other sports for most of the remaining calendar year.

“Pretty much all I can do is polish,” Rice said. “They finish with me in late October/November, their travel ball season starts shortly thereafter. They’re year-round players.”

Rice said one element he stresses the most with his players is a commitment to getting better every day.

“Try to be a better person every day,” Rice said. “That’s pretty much our motto. I stress, especially in practice, don’t come out there and waste my time and waste your time. We’re not practicing to practice; we’re practicing to get better.”

Rice said communication, jumping ability and quickness are three aspects of volleyball that hold true.

“I enjoy the game. The game moves fast and it’s constant action,” Rice said. “Watching these girls that couldn’t do (something) in the sixth grade and watching these skills that they’ve built up until now. I’m just anxious to see what we’re going to develop.”

Rice said seeing the evolution of his team and how leadership and expectations trickle down from the upperclassmen to the underclassmen excite him most about the upcoming 2019 campaign.

“I hate to cheat quotes, but Nick Saban has one of the best quotes that I’ve ever heard and he says, ‘We’ll be as good as our leadership demands we are.’ So it’s a legacy thing,” Rice said. “It took years to build that up, but now there’s an expectation. Our seniors expect from the juniors, who expect from the sophomores, who expect from the incoming freshmen.”

Rice said the greatest team strength is driving people off the net, as the Lady Jackets play with an offense-minded mentality.

“We serve hard. We try to keep people from being able to get on the net,” Rice said. “When we get the ball on the net, we’re going to drive the ball down. I’ve got some tall girls that can jump and we hit the ball very hard.”

Factoring in the relatively short amount of time Calhoun Volleyball is all together, developing team chemistry could present itself as a challenge. However, Rice said building team chemistry is similar to a college application.

“They want to know first off your physical size and how fast you run,” Rice said. “The next thing they want to know is what kind of person you are. I tell my girls that’s more important. Nobody wants a person with a bad attitude on their team. There’s a difference in being competitive and having a bad attitude.”

Calhoun recently took part in a 2019 volleyball camp at Wofford College in South Carolina. The Lady Jackets won the tournament and were presented with a gold ball as an award.

“Our goal was communication,” Rice said on the Wofford camp. “When we went to camp, that was the first time they had been back together, so communication is going to be a big thing for them.”

Rice, about to enter his 12th season as volleyball head coach, is eager to get the 2019 campaign started.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with these girls,” Rice said. “If we’re as good right now as we’re going to be in October, then I … haven’t done a very good job, but if we could improve and get a little bit better, maybe we can make a run further and deeper than we have in the past. With a little luck, you never can tell.”

The 2019 season begins on July 30 when the Lady Jackets travel to Northwest Whitfield.