Ball is in their court

Published 8:04 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More than two weeks remain until its first match, but the Jemison volleyball team is already in mid-season, or maybe even end-of-season, form.

Though the Panthers will still make use of their preseason practice, coach Leighsa Robinson said the squad could be better today than it was at the end of last season.

Jemison will feature a surplus of senior leadership and a team-wide willingness to work that will, if preseason indications are accurate, see much success.

“I really feel like, when we took the floor this summer, we were a better team than when we finished last year,” Robinson said. “When we went down to Montgomery [for play days on July 28-29], we held our own and turned a lot of heads.”

The Panthers played perennial playoff participants Montgomery Academy, Montgomery-Catholic and Trinity.

Aug. 20: at Holt*

Aug. 22: at Capitol City Jubilee at St. James High

Aug. 24: vs. Trinity/LAMP at LAMP

Aug. 25: vs. Shelby Co./Bibb Co.* at Shelby Co.

Aug. 29: at Calera Tournament

Aug. 31: vs. Isabella

Sept. 1: at Calera*

Sept. 3: at Chilton Co.

Sept. 8: vs. Montevallo

Sept. 14: vs. Chilton Co.

Sept. 15: at Thorsby

Sept. 17: vs. Bibb Co.*

Sept. 19: Jemison Invitation

Sept. 28: vs. Thorsby

Sept. 29: vs. Calera*

Oct. 1: at Isabella

Oct. 5: vs. Holt*

Oct. 6: at Montevallo

Oct. 10: Chilton County Tournament at Chilton Co. High

*-area match

Improvement may have come easily for the Panthers because they return almost intact. Only left side hitter Christie Hoffmeyer was lost to graduation, and her potential replacements—senior Whitney Childress and junior Alexis Reeves—are experienced players.

The only other change in the rotation will be senior Codi Mims, along with some younger players, at middle blocker.

“I probably won’t know everything until the season starts,” Robinson said.

Robinson said she thinks the strength of the team will be its defense—with senior Dallis Vanderslice, junior Emily Smithey and sophomore Tanya Liveoak—and its senior leadership. Other than the ones already mentioned, Shelby Bivens, Tabatha Cork and Holly Varton are also rising seniors.

Perhaps most importantly is Jemison’s work ethic.

“Our setters show up an hour before everyone else to work on ball placement,” Robinson said. “When it’s time for practice to start, everyone is out there passing the ball.

“They work hard. That’s what is going to help us this year more than anything.”