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Parity might rule this season in area volleyball

Isabella and Jemison have long boasted volleyball dynasties. Even someone experiencing his first fall sports season in the county – as I did last year – would have been able to tell the Mustangs and the Panthers have a lot of history just by watching one of their thrilling matches last season. Players, coaches and fans put a lot of emotion into those contests. You knew both sides really wanted to win.

Our area’s two best programs, historically, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but look for more parity in 2008. Isabella should be the area’s best team. The Mustangs, as mentioned above, played on the same level as Jemison last year only to come up a little short, but Jemison sustained heavier graduation losses. As Isabella coach Glen Graham likes to say, a team’s ability doesn’t always equal its performance. But ability is all we have to go on right now, and the Mustangs have plenty of that with the likes of Amber Wyatt, Carissa Eiland, Ruby Fernandez and Krysta Tyler.

Trying to pick the No. 2 team in the area is where things get tricky. Is it Jemison? Again, many important Panthers graduated (only two starters return), but the girls that will step into key roles, such as setter Kasi Wells, are talented if inexperienced. Veterans Christie Hoffmeyer and Tabatha Cork will show the younger girls how things should be done. Based on Jemison’s history and the excellence that coach Leighsa Robinson demands, expect the Panthers to have yet another strong season.

Is Chilton County High the second best team around? The Tigers made strides last season and will now compete under a new coach in Misty Jones. CCHS’s talent has to be considered above anyone but Isabella’s; the team just has to play up their potential. CCHS was probably the third best team in the area last year, so it would be the most obvious pick to challenge Isabella.

How about Thorsby? Look for yet another significant improvement from the Rebels as coach Ginger Williams continues to build the program. There’s a different air about the team this year, almost as if the Rebels know they can compete this time around. It might take a win or two to get over the hump, but look out when Thorsby figures out how to win the close ones.

Could Billingsley surprise everyone? In a word, yes. The Bears, of course, won’t compete in the Chilton County tournament and are no longer in Isabella’s area, but our Autauga County team will face the Mustangs and Thorsby this year. With six seniors and a taste of the playoffs gained last year, Billingsley has the ability to knock off anyone on any given day.

It all makes for a season that could be as interesting as we’ve ever seen.