Volleyball starts 1-10, set to improve with new coach


Elias Podber

Senior Sadie Mothershed celebrates with her team after getting a point from a spike on the previous play against Locust Grove on August 28. The Lady Knights lost 2-1.

Elias Podber

The volleyball team started the 2019 season slowly, with only one win in its first 10 games. However, most of the losses have come against high-quality, out-of-region teams scheduled to assess the Lady Knights’ ability.

“We played a few good schools in the beginning of the season that were definitely out of district,” new head coach Andrew Miller said. “They were strong teams, but it let us kind of see where we fell on the scale and how we level up against them, and we were competitive, so that was exciting.”

Miller came to Grady after coaching at Jacksonville University in Florida at the Division I level, and has been able to share his knowledge with the team in the early stages of the season.

“It’s really nice that we have a coach that still knows volleyball and who knows it really well, and a lot of teams don’t get that. So, we’re very grateful,” senior captain Lucy Bertsch said.

In addition to experience, Miller uses tactics that make the game more enjoyable for the players and less stressful: a technique refreshing to players who are used to a more rigid style on their club teams.

“I like for my teams to think for themselves,” Miller said. “A lot of these club coaches and club volleyball programs limit these girls to one position, whereas I want them to get like a 20,000 foot view and see every position and how it’s supposed to be played. So, I don’t limit them to a single position per say, but my biggest thing is I want them to be problem solvers.”

All student athletes deal with the stress of balancing school and their sport, but Miller’s laid-back tactics make one aspect of the student athlete constant struggle a little bit easier.

“He’s a little bit more relaxed, so nobody’s as stressed,” junior captain Kiala Blackman said. “He may be a little tough, but he still sees it from our point of view. He lets you relax so you’re not as tense on the court.”

The transition into the season was challenged as the volleyball team had no coach over the summer to facilitate workouts and keep the team together. These responsibilities fell on the captains to make sure the Lady Knights were ready when August rolled around.

“When we didn’t have a coach over the summer, I ran all the practices, which was kind of hard, but it was fun,” Bertsch said.

Senior leadership and upperclassmen experience are some of the team’s strengths.. The team’s leaders work hard and lead by example.

“We have good senior leadership this year,” Miller said. “They’ve done a really good job of keeping everybody afloat and making sure people are working out over the summer and practicing over the summer, so that was really nice to come to.”

In addition to upperclassmen leading the way, the Lady Knights also utilize a competitive group of underclassmen.

“We have two freshmen on varsity this year; we have a good amount of underclassmen.They’re all getting playing time; it’s not like they’re keeping stats on the bench,” Miller said. “The future looks bright for Grady volleyball.”
With a combination of quality leadership and a relaxed coaching style, the volleyball team has benefited from a number of strengths.

“We’re a really scrappy team, which might not sound like a strength, but it’s volleyball, so the point of the game is to keep the ball up in the air, and we do a good job of that,” Miller said. “Again, we’ve got a bunch of girls with a lot of high character and good integrity, so I’d say those are our strengths.”
Early on this season, players exhibited a willingness to put work in.

“We have a lot of really committed players who are excited to play, including JV and varsity, and we have two seniors, and I think we’re both really committed and love the sport,” Bertsch said. “I feel like everybody on the team loves the sport, too.”

Through this love of volleyball, a strong chemistry has built up between the girls, which will benefit the team as the season progresses.

“Everybody gets along. So, everybody trusts each other, basically,” Blackman said.

However, a 1-9 start to the season leaves plenty of room for improvement. With playoffs as the goal, according to freshman Margaret Kimbrough, who said “I’m expecting to go to state, and I’m probably expecting to win more games than we have so far,” the team is getting to work on its weaknesses.

“I’d like to be scrappier,” Miller said. “But just cleaning up ball control is the biggest problem for every single team in the country, and just not being lazy on easy plays.”
Overall, the volleyball team is looking to best a 10-16 record from last year, as well as a 2nd round State 5A playoff run. 

“I think we’re going to need to be really focused, especially in games and hustle for the ball,” Bertsch said. “I think we’ll go far this year if we stay focused during practice and during the games.”