COVINGTON - Eastside's volleyball team is excited about a lot of things this year and hopefully that excitement will translate into a more productive season.
"They're excited about moving from (AAAA) to (AAA)," Eastside coach Angie Lewis said. "Some of the goals are winning more matches, performing well and moving past the area tournament, working together as a team and getting the community and the school excited about the game of volleyball."
Providing some of the excitement was a productive summer where the Lady Eagles had a couple of camps with good turnout.
Aside from a satellite camp set up by the coaches of Florida State University, Eastside also had time in the gym and did a lot of conditioning. Of the 18 girls attending the FSU camp, 15 were from Eastside.
As a result of the camp and the turnout, the team will be able to do several things differently this season.
"Because of the camp, we're changing the way we present the pass. It'll help us with the cross movement," Lewis said. "The camp helped add some insight to some of the things we had been doing."
The top squad in Area 8-AAA is Oconee County, which made it last year to the Final Four in Class AAA. With two of last year's other state playoff teams in the area moving up to the Class AAAA, Eastside has a good chance to make it to the state tournament.
Also helping Eastside's chances of getting out the area tournament is the fact that there are only six schools competing for four slots in 8-AAA.
"Oconee County will be our most challenging. Morgan County we can play with most of the time, but Oconee County will be the most challenging in the area," Lewis said.
The other teams playing volleyball in 8-AAA are Franklin County, Hart County and Jackson County.
One thing that the Lady Eagles will do differently this year is try to become effective using a two-setter system.
"This year we have the potential for another setter, so we're going to try to mix things up," Lewis said. "The setters are Mary Sheets and Naomi Wills. If we do a 6-2, those will be our two setters."
Another thing that will be different on this year's squad is experience. Although last year's team had five seniors, only three had varsity experience. This year the team will have five players back - seniors Gabe Parker and Sheets and the junior trio of Ashley Aycox, Antonia Mullins and Wills.
New to the team are senior Hannah Meyer, juniors Kelsey Gerks and Tiffani Hodges, sophomore Sydney Mumpower and freshman Katie Johnson.
"Katie is a tremendous addition to the team. She's already brought a lot of excitement to the players. She's an excellent hitter, blocker and server," Lewis said. "She's an excellent all-around athlete in this sport. She brings a level of excitement and challenge to our girls to become better."
Even though the team has five players that didn't play varsity last year, only Johnson and Gerks are new. The other three moved up from the JV squad.
"I think we have what it takes to take one of the four (playoff) spots," Lewis said. "Looking at our experience and the new additions to the roster, I think we have a real good chance at taking one of those four spots."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: At a glance
· Team: Eastside Volleyball
· Coach: Angie Lewis (second year)
· Last year's record: 4-26
· Key returning players: Gabe Parker, Mary Sheets, (juniors) Ashley Aycox, Antonia Mullins and Naomi Wills
· First matches: Saturday at Hart County Play Date