Lady Pats return four starters for volleyball state run

CONYERS - The Heritage volleyball team has a little unfinished business to take care of this season.

Last season, with eight sophomores in their lineup, the Lady Patriots won the a subregion title with a perfect 5-0 mark but were upset in the Area 8-AAAA tournament, finishing the season with 29-14 record.

With a roster that features 10 juniors this season, including four returning starters, Heritage has high hopes again this fall.

The Lady Patriots launch their 2008 campaign in the Play For The Cure Tournament on Saturday.

"I look forward to a very solid season. We have a tough schedule, especially in our opening tournament at our Play For The Cure event on (Saturday)," Heritage coach David Buddenbaum said. "We play two defending state champions and we play two teams that were state runners-up last year. So while I look forward to a good year, I am more interested in where we are in October when the region and state tournaments begin."

The returning starters this season for the Lady Patriots are setter Rachel Jubran, outside hitter Olivia Wasdin, middle hitter Taylor Bailey and outside hitter Mikayla Charles.

Last year, Jubran, Wasdin and Bailey were first-team selections on the Citizen's 2007 All-Area Volleyball Team.

Heritage's key losses to graduation were Olivia Patrick and Tori Pierce, who were both first-team All-Area selections. Pierce was the Citizen's Co-Volleyball Player of the Year last year.

"It will be hard to replace Olivia Patrick and Tori Pierce," Buddenbaum said. "They were outstanding contributors to our team and they set a great example for our current players. They will be tough to replace as Olivia was outstanding on defense and Tori was great on offense."

The Lady Patriots' strength this season will be something unique - a love for the game.

"I think more than anything the players truly enjoy each other and they love the game of volleyball," Buddenbaum said. "We have a roster of 10 juniors this year who have been playing together for the past three years and know how to motivate each other. So overall, our strength is we have a love volleyball that I think will be evident on the court at all times."

Buddenbaum expects some quality production from varsity newcomers Kacie Bradley, Jenny Chapman, Hillary Norman and Arabia Umrani, as well as two new additions to the program, Mikala Flonnoy and Erica Perry.

"We have four new players that will make their varsity debuts in Kacie Bradley, Jenny Chapman, Hillary Norman and Arabia Umrani who will all start throughout the year and bring a lot of enthusiasm to the game," he said. "In addition, we have two new players to our program in Mikala Flonnoy and Erica Perry who will give us a lot of options."

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Team: Heritage volleyball

Coach: David Buddenbaum (15th season)

Last year's record: 29-14

Key returning players: Rachel Jubran, Olivia Wasdin, Taylor Bailey and Mikayla Charles

First matches: Saturday in Play For The Cure Tournament at Heritage