Lady Patriots loaded again for run at title
Heritage volleyball returns 10 players off last year's championship squad

CONYERS - Heritage volleyball coach David Buddenbaum finds himself in a unique situation these days.

His Lady Patriots bring back all 10 players off last year's Area 8-AAAA championship team. What's more, they're all seniors.

"We have 10 returning players who are all very important to our success. Each has worked hard in the offseason to improve their skills and prepare for their senior year," Buddenbaum said. "We have the potential of doing something really great this year. If we take care of each point, each game, each match one by one and focus on our goal of winning region and advancing through the state tournament, we can have a great year. But we need to understand that in order to get better we must get better at practice and as we play the tough opponents on our schedule."

Back for the Lady Patriots are setter Rachel Jubran, outside hitters Mikayla Charles, Kacie Bradley and Jenny Chapman, middle hitters Taylor Bailey, Arabia Umrani and Erica Perry, libero Hillary Norman and right-side hitters Olivia Wasdin and Mikala Flonnoy.

Bailey was the Citizen's 2008 Volleyball Player of the Year. She was joined on the All-8-AAAA team by Charles, Wasdin, Jubran, Heritage and Flonnoy.

"I think our knowledge of each other and our belief that each other can get the job done in their position (is our strength)," Buddenbaum said. "We are pretty solid as far as our returning players. Each player truly loves to play volleyball and is excited about having a good year."

Buddenbaum also expects good things from the underclassmen on his bench - juniors Peyton Farrish, Rachel Wherry and Taniya Wilder and sophomores Amrika Ramcheran and Katlyn Reynolds - when opportunity to play arises.

"The three juniors and two sophomores would start any year but this year," he said. "Since we have 10 players returning, the new players will add to our bench strength and add to the intensity of our practices. They are very strong players who I believe can fill in for the starting 10 at any time."

The Lady Patriots opened the season with a 2-2 mark over the weekend at the Sequoyah Classic. Heritage beat Ringgold (22-25, 25-25-16, 25-21 and North Forsyth (25-5, 25-22) after losing to Blessed Trinity (25-10, 16-25, 25-22) and Kell (18-25, 25-19, 25-23).

Bailey paced Heritage in the tournament with 35 kills and 15 blocks. Charles also chipped in 20 kills. Jubran contributed a team-high 85 assists, while Chapman led the squad with seven aces.

Buddenbaum only has two concerns heading into the season - overconfidence and looking ahead.

"Our focus for the year is playing each point 100 percent. Challenges arise and we need to focus on what is next," he said. "After winning area last year, we feel it will be important to not take anyone for granted. Teams will be gunning to beat us and we will have to play at 100 percent each and every match in order to succeed."

Heritage returns to action Wednesday in its home opener against Tucker and Clarke Central.

SideBar: At a glance

· Team: Heritage volleyball

· Coach: David Buddenbaum (16th season)

· Last year's record: 31-20

· Next match: Wednesday vs. Tucker and Clarke Central