Two years ago, Alcovy volleyball was the best team in the county. The Lady Tigers won the county championship, posted their first winning season and narrowly missed the school's first playoff berth. Last year though, the program took a step back.
A coaching change, the loss of several key seniors and a new area threw everything out of whack. With the 2011 season set to begin in less than two weeks, order has been restored.
Head coach Amanda Briggs is back at the helm after a year off and the Lady Tigers are again optimistic about the season's outlook. Also back is senior Brittany Jacobson, the school's all-time leader in most categories. She led Alcovy in serving points, kills and digs a year ago and enters her fourth season poised for another solid season.
Also returning is setter Briana Clark and Taylor Staples, adding continuity to Alcovy's front line. Newcomers Paige Hood, Alissa Yang and first-year varsity players Kristin Gauthier and Kaitlin Aikens will bolster the Lady Tigers lineup..
Two years ago, the Lady Tigers entered the area tournament for a shot to make the state playoffs as the fourth seed. They lost to North Clayton, a team they had handled albeit in a tight match, toward the end of the season. That loss still lingers but after taking a year to coach the junior varsity, Briggs has a renewed outlook on expectations.
"I want us to be competitive," Briggs said. "We want to win but it's not as important as playing as a team and giving every effort. As long as we do that and don't hurt ourselves, that's all I can ask for."
That's not to say the Lady Tigers wouldn't welcome a trip to state for the first time in school history. It's just not something that Briggs and the team are wrapped up in.
"We would like to make it out of the area tournament but we can't think about that every game we play because that's not what our focus should be," Briggs said. "If we come together as a team, play for each other, and play solid without making too many mistakes, we'll give ourselves chances to win."
The Lady Tigers will get back to using two setters, a formula that worked well in 2009. Along with Clark, Staples will be used as a setter. Staples is also one of Alcovy's best hitters. Hood, with her tall frame and long arms, could add a presence at the net. The wildcard could be Yang. After not playing organized volleyball before, she's set to make the most of her senior year. While raw, she's talented and will give the Lady Tigers depth on the back line in serve-receive. She's also a good server. In fact, serving may be one of the strengths of the team as every girl is pretty consistent, if not dominant, from the service line.
The Lady Tigers won't overpower teams. Instead they will rely on fundamentals and covering each other. Jacobson is the team's most experienced player and is solid on the front or back row. She will be Alcovy's most potent scoring threat both at the net and behind the service line.
The theme for Alcovy in 2011 is team. Briggs is excited about the group she has and likes the team's chemistry.
"We have a couple of new girls that are doing very well for just picking up the game," Briggs said. "I think this group compliments each other well. We will have to play well and avoid mistakes because we aren't as strong as some other teams. We will cover each other and keep the ball in play. That's going to be our game."