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Lady Eagles eager to get started in '09

COVINGTON - With six returning players the Lady Eagles volleyball team is primed to make some noise in Area 8-AAA this season.

Returning for another season are seniors Antonia Mullins, Naomi Wills, Kelsey Gerks and Tiffani Hodges, junior Sydney Mumpower and sophomore Katie Johnston.

"Katie Johnston has shown the most improvement with her serving and more consistent spikes," Eastside head coach Angie Lewis said.

Besides Johnson, Lewis is also expecting Mullins and senior Haley Ugwuibe to have a big impact on making the team a contender.

"Haley Ugwuibe will be a definite asset to the team with her blocking skills and as a middle hitter," Lewis said.

Aside from having a goal of improving on last year's 18-24 record, Lewis is also hoping to rank higher in the area play as well as the are tournament while trying to making it deeper in the Class AAA playoffs.

The Lady Eagles lost in the first round to Creekview, a team that made it to the Final Four.

Lewis said her biggest threat to winning an Area 8-AAA championship will come from last year's No. 2 seed Hart County.

Oconee County won the area last year with Morgan County finishing third.

In order to help the team improve during the off-season, Lewis gave the girls more time to practice by opening the gym and she encouraged camp participation.

With newcomers Tiffani Hodges (senior), Chelsea Cooper (senior), Leah Burgess (sophomore) and Tiffany Lo (freshman), Lewis feels that this year's team has a lot of potential to keeping the ball in play from the serve and gaining points off the net spiking the ball.

However, she still has to get her team to play better defense if they are to put more marks in the win column.

"Our strengths will be in serving and spiking (by) targeting our serves and spikes to areas not being covered by opponents," Lewis said. "We will also protect the net well with blocking, but will need to solidify court coverage during double blocking. Communication is the key to keep our weaknesses from showing."

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

SideBar: At a glance

Eastside volleyball

· Coach: Angie Lewis (third year)

· Last year's record: 18-24

· First game: Aug. 25 vs. Newton and Shiloh at Newton