Alcovy takes a small step ahead in '08

COVINGTON - The Alcovy Tigers improved in their second volleyball season as they continue to work toward becoming a force to reckon with in Area 8-AAAA.

They appear to be heading in the right direction as they finished 6-33 this season and got a win in the area. Last year in their first season, the Lady Tigers went 0-45.

"Some of the coaches have said to me that we have come a long way. They worked hard and knew what they wanted," Alcovy coach Suzanne Smith said.

Alcovy's area win was a 14-25, 25-11, 27-25 victory over county rival Eastside.

Last season, Alcovy lost all but one of its matches in straight games. This season, Alcovy forced 15 matches into three games, winning five of them.

"We had some real close games, but you have to win the whole match," Smith said. "They had remarkable improvement from last year."

One thing that helped the Lady Tigers improve was that the girls had a better understanding of how to play the game.

"It's like 'I don't just stand here and wait for the ball to come to me. I actually have a job to do.' That's how we started talking to them about this," Smith said. "I told them, 'Look, you're in this position; you have a job to do. No matter where you are on the court, you have a job to do.'"

An aspect of the game that Smith tried to get the girls to improve on was getting the ball to the setter.

"They had a hard time getting the ball to the setter," Smith said. "When they did and we ran a play they, were like, 'That was so cool.' It could be that cool every time."

The team also had more players this year as 42 girls came out. The larger talent pool enabled them to have varsity, JV and ninth-grade squads.

"Coach (Amanda) Briggs did an excellent job with the JV in giving them the fundamentals," Smith said. "I think she did an awesome job to get them ready. I need them for next year."

The problem with having a young team is that they do not tend to stay focused for the entire season.

After playing Salem and Rockdale to close matches - 25-23, 25-23 against Salem and 25-19, 25-15 against Rockdale - the girls felt like they did what they wanted to do and seemed to forget about the area playoffs.

"I think we peaked too soon," Smith said. "We came out strong against Salem and Rockdale, and to the girls that was it. We played well against two schools they wanted to play well against, and their focus was not where it needed to be. They didn't understand that it built up to the area tournament. They were thinking that with the area tournament our season's over."

Alcovy had several key players this year as LaChelle Hudgins was generally good for three blocks per game. Ashley Jacobson usually had two good blocks per game.

Lauren Henderson started the season as the team's top server before she started to fade. However, Kyeria Tuggle and Brittany Jackson were able to step up to keep things going with Lacey Ivey being Alcovy's most consistent server all season.

Of the matches played by the Lady Tigers, the most memorable was the final home match for senior night.

"During senior night, I let all six seniors play all night," Smith said. "I said, 'Holy cow, they should've been playing the whole time.' It was like it finally came together for them on senior night. I was really proud of the way my six seniors blended together on senior night. Had those girls played when they were younger, they would've been outstanding."

Alcovy's seniors included Sonja Lindgren, Lilly Rodriguez, Tuggle, Henderson, Hudgins and Jackson.

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com