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The Eminence girls’ volleyball team has a majority of the same players from last year — the squad that won just one game and was eliminated in the opening round of the 28th District tournament — but they now have a new coach and new goals, which they hope will lead to a complete turnaround.
Stephanie Meadows took over the program from Kristen Lively, who coached for just one season, when the Lady Warriors went 1-16. They have combined for a 3-54 match record the last three years. Meadows, who graduated from EHS in 2004 and played all four years on the volleyball team, is trying to get the program back to where it was when she helped lead it to a 21-10-2 record in 2003.
“Since that first day of practice, this is a whole different team,” said Meadows, who is helped by assistant coaches Jenna Peterson and Donna McClamroch. “We’ve really worked on the fundamentals — bumping, passing, setting, hitting. And from what I’ve heard from others, we look like a completely new team, too.”
The Lady Warriors earned their lone win of the season last August with a 2-0 win over Evangel Christian. They lost five matches before that win and 11 after for the 1-16 mark. In the opening round of the 28th District tournament, they took a 2-0 loss to Anderson County. The season before, they had just two wins — both over Evangel — and a 2-19 record. They have not beaten a team other than Evangel since Oct. 10, 2005 when they defeated Shelby County in the first round of the district tournament to advance to the 8th Region tourney.
Towards the end of last school year, Lively decided to back away from the program after one season. When Meadows was asked to be the new head coach, she agreed and brought Peterson and McClamroch on staff to revive the program to where it once was.
“I chose to coach because when I was in school we had built a legacy and then it kind of dwindled away,” Meadows said after accepting the position. “It’s gone down hill and I want to get it back for the girls.”
Sarah Floyd was the lone senior on last year’s team, while a majority of the remaining players returned for another go around and the team added more players to the roster. The squad started practice on July 15 with 22 players, already more than previous years. Plus, this season the Lady Warriors will play freshmen, junior varsity and varsity games for the first time, giving the younger players more experience.
Eminence opened its season last Monday night at Gallatin County, winning the JV match 2-1 and taking a 2-0 loss in the varsity match. From that first match, Meadows said the one area the team needs to work on is confidence.
“I thought we played well the first game but then got frustrated in the second one,” Meadows said of the varsity teams’ best-of-three series. “This is a rebuilding year but I need them to win to get their confidence up.”
Meadows said the team’s strengths are the ability to pick each other up and work together. As for a weakness, it is passing the ball to the setter to give the hitter a target to hit the ball for the kill.
“We need to really work on our passing,” Meadows said. “We have great sets and really good hits but sometimes the passes aren’t there. It’s just a matter of getting the ball to the setter.”
The players are still battling for team spots. For now, with their 6-2 offense, the setters are Savannah Meadows and Kara Capps with Chelsea Wood, Caili Plemmons, Andrea Perez and Chelsea Wright filling the other roles. Capps missed the first game, which moved PJ Thomason into a starting setter position. Key off-the-bench players are Keelie Dyson and Alexis Lentini. Plemmons and Annabel McKee are the only two seniors on this year’s team, which includes four juniors, six sophomores, five freshmen and middle schoolers.
Meadows said the players made team goals the first day of practice, most notably winning 25 percent of their games, practice like it’s a game and play with a cool head. If they can pull off 25-percent wins, it will be more than the previous three years combined.