For the first time since Alcovy High School came into the fray three years ago, each school will be playing in different regions under different classifications. Eastside drops down to 8-AAA after competing in the same region as Alcovy the past two years and the Lady Tigers will play in a new region.
Here's a look at the upcoming season and how each coach views their prospect for success during 2008.
Alcovy Lady Tigers
Alcovy enters the 2008 season with a new coach and a whole new attitude. Gone is Suzanne Smith who led the Lady Tigers to a 6-60 record over two years. Taking her place, first-year head coach Amanda Briggs will lead the new-look Lady Tigers after spending the past four years at the JV level.
"I feel more pressure at this level," she said. "The competition is much tougher at the varsity level and the game moves faster."
Part of the challenge will be taking a team that experienced virtually no success in 2007 and convincing them they can win in '08. Some of the transition will be made easier since the Lady Tigers attended a Georgia Tech camp this summer and assistant coach Michelle Finley has implemented a rigorous workout program to condition the athletes.
Briggs isn't expecting miracles; rather she hopes this year her team will put forth the effort that can at least give the Lady Tigers a chance to win more games.
"I expect my girls to fight for every point and not to give up," Briggs said. "I expect to see that the girls have more endurance than last year, as well as strength. After all, we have been working out all summer."
With three returning varsity players and four call-ups from the junior varsity team, Alcovy will turn to some new faces this year. Several key players are lost to graduation or ineligibility and three girls who made the squad are new to the game.
"It is difficult. To be honest all of our girls needed to go back to the fundamentals and work their way up," Briggs said about the youth of her team. "It is a challenge for us, too, as coaches. It is hard to build a program when you don't have many girls with volleyball experience."
Even though she admits she wants to win every time they take the floor, Briggs understands it is more important that her team makes positive strides and gets better with each game.
"If we work as a team, if we believe in ourselves, if we play hard from the beginning of the match until the last point, we will be successful," she said. "That's all I can ask of my girls.."
Newton Lady Rams
For the Lady Rams, 2008 is all about taking the next step. Second-year coach Shandelyn Carter enters the year with a young team, but one that has game experience from last year.
"Last year I was teaching from scratch for the most part," Carter said. "This year, I have most of those same girls and I'm pretty confident everyone knows the sport and our record should definitely improve."
The Lady Rams hope to get solid play from returning starters April Lo and Kayla Bunch. And while Newton returns several key players, Carter is going to keep things simple on the court.
"We are going to go with pretty much what we ran last year," Carter said. "We're still a pretty young team so I want to keep things basic until everyone learns more advanced stuff."
Like Briggs and Lewis, Carter is realistic and doesn't expect her team to win the state championship. This year, she will be looking at small goals.
"I'm really just looking for improvements across the board," Carter said. "I hope we will have better averages with our serves and serve receive, stronger attacks and more accurate passing."
Carter said the girls worked out over the summer and attended the same volleyball camp with Alcovy and Eastside. Unlike the other two schools, Newton does not change regions.
"We're playing against girls that have been playing in middle schools and have been together for five and six years so it's tough going to play these teams in our region," Carter said.
Carter admits her team doesn't have the size as even her junior varsity squad but hopes to build her program over time. In 2008, Carter hopes her girls will come together as a team and work together.
"If our girl's can come together and play as a team, we will be successful," Carter said. "I think that's what hurt us last year. If we can work together, we'll be fine."
Eastside Lady Eagles
The Lady Eagles will be looking to improve upon last year's record and Head coach Angie Lewis thinks the move to 3A will help.
Lewis said last year's 4-26 record doesn't paint a clear picture. Despite losing all but four matches, she says the end results don't reflect the overall performance of the team.
"We had a lot better team than our record showed last year," Lewis said. "We played 4A and 5A schools last year but our team was much better than we ended up. We went a lot of matches with three games so we won more games than what it looked like."
Despite the tough record, Lewis believes she has a solid nucleus of returning players. Eastside welcomes back seniors Gabe Parker and Mary Sheets and juniors Naomi Watts, Ashley Aycox and Antonia Mullins. Lewis says Parker is her floor leader and gives her team much needed experience.
Like her fellow coaches at Alcovy and Newton, Lewis admits the county has no feeder system, and the time she spends teaching the game forces her to simplify the sets she runs.
"Some of the bigger counties have feeder schools and programs in the middle schools," admitted Lewis. "In order for the three teams in the county to compete at the level we need to compete at, we have to have some middle school programs."
Regardless of experience, Lewis is excited about her teams chances in 8-AAA.
"It allows our girls to compete at a level that is more competitive for us," Lewis said. "I think that with triple-A, we'll have a better chance to compete."
Winning is important and Lewis says she gets frustrated when the girls don't play smart. But as long as her team puts it on the line each game, she feels the team will have a successful 2008 campaign.
"It's important that the girls feel good about the way they perform and they work together as a team," Lewis said. "That to me is more important than the outcome of the score."