CONYERS - During the last three seasons, the Rockdale volleyball team has won a combined 69 matches.
And with the team the Lady Bulldogs have coming back, 2009 could very well put the Lady Bulldogs over the century mark.
Overall, Rockdale was 22-18 this year, including a 7-3 Area 8-AAAA South record, good for third.
"Effort-wise, we were great," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said. "We hustled every match, and were usually in them to the end. Several times this year we might (have) lost the first game of a match, but we took it as a challenge and came back to win quite a few of them."
According to Sansing, Rockdale's best match came against Landmark Christian in a playdate on Aug. 23.
"Even though we lost in three games, to go toe-to-toe against an Elite Eight team like it was this year - to win one of the games against a team with a Georgia Tech signee who is unbelievably awesome (Michelle Mead) - that showed me the potential we had," Sansing said. "Unfortunately, that was the last time we had our original varsity team together. With various illnesses and injuries, the team persevered and we finished just one match short of the playoffs."
Departing from this year's squad due to graduation will be seniors Tayla Mitchell, Jasmin Miller and Jakarrea Mustaf.
"My three seniors were very calming influences on the court," Sansing said. "Their experience was a great bridge to the younger players who came up throughout the year. Even though none of them were full-time starters before this season, you would not have known that by watching them."
Mitchell led the team in kills (224) and blocks (39). She also had 30 aces and an 87 percent serve percentage. Miller finished the year with 81 kills, 33 aces and five blocks. Mustaf also provided a valuable lift at the middle hitter in limited action.
"Each one brought her own unique attributes on the court," Sansing said, "and I felt all of them performed above expectation."
Despite missing the last month of the season due to an injury she suffered in the Conyers Classic, junior Kelsey Girardot (right-side hitter) turned in another strong season. Prior to her setback, Girardot had 153 kills, 71 aces and 11 blocks.
Junior Brianna Dennis added 194 kills and 10 blocks to compliment her 88 serve percentage.
Sophomore Lauren Aikens, who came up halfway through the season, provided an offensive spark with 60 kills and 23 aces. And sophomore Taylor Burdette, improving as the season progressed, finished with 68 aces and a team-high 150 digs.
According to Sansing, the focus during the offseason will be on team passing and better technique.
"Our passing was our downfall, as we started too many rallies out of system," Sansing said. "We always need better technique in passing and hitting, so we will work on that in our individual sessions."
Junior Chelsea Nunn was the exception. At setter, she had a school-record 536 assists to go along with 31 kills, 53 aces and a 96 percent serve percentage.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.