COVINGTON, Ga. -- After ending last year’s season in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs, the Eastside Eagles volleyball squad is taking the slow and steady route to improve on its previous success and to overcome losing three power players from last year’s team.
“We’re definitely trying to take it one game at a time,” said second-year Eastside volleyball coach Maggie Johnston. “The girls are excited to start region play. They want to go to the playoffs. They’re excited to finish in the top of their (area). But we’re just telling them to take it one game at a time.”
Their method seems to be working as they rolled over the Jackson Lady Red Devils on Thursday, winning 25-9, 25-13 and 25-22 in the first three matches of a best of five series.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Johnston. “We’re going into our second match of region next week. Just wanted the girls to get some touches because we kind of took a break because of Hurricane Irma. So, just trying to get some touches so that the girls feel confident going into (area).”
Senior Chasity Smith showed no mercy as she dominated and attacked the ball Thursday night. Smith also scored the winning point in all three games.
“(Smith is a) great player all the way around,” said Johnston. “(Losing her is) really going to hurt there.”
In the first two games, Eastside (17-7, 2-0) raced to big leads, making for easygoing wins. However, in the third game Jackson (2-11, 0-3) put up a bigger fight while keeping the score tight the entire game.
Eastside held a seven point lead at the beginning of the third game, but quickly lost that gap. The two teams then fought tooth and nail until Eastside ultimately prevented a fourth game.
Even in low parts of the night for the Lady Eagles, they kept a confident smile on their faces.
“That’s something that really is an expectation in order to be an Eastside volleyball player,” said Johnston. “You have to be positive at all times.”
The night not only served as another win for the Lady Eagles, but a celebration for the seniors. Smith, Taylor Haff, Sierra Springston and Dreama Weatherton are the players that will be moving on to pursue higher education in the coming year.
Haff had a great night as well. In the second match, Haff served five times in a row and the first four, she managed to find a gap within the Lady Red Devils’ formation.
“(Haff is) one of our strong players in the front,” said Johnston. “She doesn’t get a lot of kills but she doesn’t make a lot of errors. So, she’s our stable person throughout the front row.”
Although Eastside will be saying goodbye to four powerful players this year, Eastside’s program is still producing some major talent. Lillian Fowler is among the team’s emerging athletes. Fowler showed great hustle throughout each rally, and did not flinch when it came to getting on the floor for a dig.
“(Fowler is) our other go to hitter,” said Johnston. “She really has a strong hit.”
Johnston notes a few differences from her first year of coaching with her current second year.
“I feel like the girls are responding better to the system,” she said. “They know where they’re supposed to be on defense. They know how to run the offense and what I expect of them. I feel like they're more confident, therefore they are playing better. I feel like I improve every year. But mainly its just the relationships with the girls. Winning is great, but it’s really about building relationships with the kids. It’s really been something I enjoy this year with the girls.”
Eastside will look to solidify its first place position atop the area standings when it hosts Woodward Academy (16-10, 2-0) at home on Tuesday at 6 p.m.