Season’s Preview is a miniseries we’ll be starting at the Calhoun Times, leading up to the release of our 2019 Pigskin Preview. Season’s Preview will showcase the fall varsity teams about to start their respective seasons here in Gordon County. There is no particular order to the miniseries, so with that, let’s jump right in.

First up: Sonoraville Lady Phoenix Volleyball.

The Lady Phoenix are going through turnover as six seniors departed the squad from last year. Head coach Trace Vaughn, entering his sixth season, said he hopes last year’s early state playoffs exit will provide extra motivation for this year.

“The No. 1 thing right now is we have a lot of talent on the court,” Vaughn said. “Unfortunately, it’s very young talent. We only have three seniors and only one of those has any varsity experience. We’re going to have to grow up really quickly.”

The varsity squad is currently made up of three freshman, four sophomores, two juniors and three seniors. Vaughn said the competition for positions will be intense.

Young talent stepping up

Vaughn said the greatest strength his team possesses right now is its hitting ability, but there is still work to be done in the passing game.

“We were a really good passing team last year,” Vaughn said. “I think we’re going to be much improved hitting this year and the passing aspect is going to have to come along. We’ll be able to hit the ball with a lot more power, a lot more athleticism this year than we’ve had in the past couple of years.”

With plenty of young talent soon to take the court for the Lady Phoenix, Vaughn said the experienced upperclassmen will be tasked with leading and setting the example on the floor.

“The girls we do have returning that have experience are very strong and very solid at their positions and I think that’s going to be good as far as setting the example of what the younger girls need to learn … and buy(ing) into the work ethic that we’ve always had on the floor,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said he expects a slower start to the season due to the learning curve for the younger girls, but added by midseason, the Lady Phoenix should be in form.

“We run at a much faster pace. The serving comes at you a lot faster than you’re accustomed to in middle school,” Vaughn said. “If the young girls mature and get the gist of the team concept that we’re teaching, then we should do very well. I expect us to challenge for a championship again this year.”

Summer prep

Lady Phoenix Volleyball will be traveling to FCA camp next week, taking place at Johnson University in Tennessee.

“The thing I’m looking at next week is, who’s going to be on the court, how are we going to gel, what’s going to click for us,” Vaughn said. “We’ve already discussed the competition level is extremely high this year because we have those young girls pushing the older girls for playing time. It will be interesting to see how it all clicks for us.”

Vaughn said after FCA camp, he believes he will have a clearer picture of who will start for the Lady Phoenix when the season begins August 9.

Building chemistry is one of the cornerstones to success for any team, in order to have a natural flow. Or as Vaughn put it, a wave.

“In volleyball, it’s kind of like a wave-like situation and it’s got to be a beautiful wave going on at all times,” Vaughn said. “We have a long way to go in terms of chemistry just because there’s so much uncertainty surrounding playing positions at this time. (But) we have a positive atmosphere, we have great leadership that’s been handed down for years and people understand what we’re expecting as far as work ethics and their time commitments.”

Vaughn highlighted the athlete’s commitment and the community backing of Sonoraville Volleyball.

“We’re just blessed to have great girls that love the sport,” Vaughn said. “Incredibly supportive parents, a great community to live and work in, and (I) feel very fortunate.”