In his ninth year with the Aggies, coach Sean Stevens said prior success is driving this year’s team.
“After winning our area last year and making it to the playoffs, it’s really been a motivating factor for everyone to work hard,” Stevens said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to take that one step further. We would love to go deep in the playoffs and hopefully something special will work for us.”
The team begins play Friday against Thorsby, and Stevens said he feels his team is ready.
“We’ve had a great practice season so far,” Stevens said. “We started off the summer with workouts and then we went to camp at Ole Miss. We finished the summer with our summer tournament and did really well. We’ve been working
hard on conditioning. Our serving has gotten better over the summer as well.”
The Aggies will enter the season with just four returning starters. Sylacauga lost eight seniors after last season, a loss they plan to make up for in numbers.
“Every graduating class is special for all kinds of reasons,” Stevens said. “What makes this group of seniors special, is the willingness to push each other to do better. This senior class has been a group of leaders ever since they started playing volleyball.”
In practice, the Aggies have improved on their athleticism and conditioning. What the team hopes to improve on is the ability to win tight matches against tough opponents.
“I think we’re playing some pretty tough opponents,” Stevens said. “We have our usual county foes. We have our area opponents, like Talladega and Shelby County as well as Pell City and Horseshoe Bend, which are always tough matches for us.”
Over 150 girls tried out for volleyball this season. The Aggies coach feels Olympic spirit continues to drive more people to the sport.
“I think the Olympics bring so much excitement to all sports, but especially to volleyball,” Stevens said. “I think anytime girls can find something in which to participate, it’s a good thing. One thing I always tell my kids is you may not be the best at other sports, but what you can do is come to volleyball and learn to be an amazing volleyball player. It’s just amazing for girls to see adult women be successful at something, and something they themselves already participate in.”
Losing a big group of seniors can be tough on any team, especially one that utilized upperclassmen for success. Stevens said he is impressed with this year’s group and what they will mean for the program.
“I think each of our seniors continues to bring something to the table that hasn’t necessarily been there every year,” Stevens said. “We’ve got Danielle Ashford, who is just playing amazing as a middle. Ashley Payton, who has stepped up and is starting as an outside hitter. Jordan Holding is the best libero I have ever had. Finally, a player like Measia Stamps, who brings six years of volleyball experience to her senior year, is always an asset. I’m grateful to have this much depth to my team.”
Stevens said he is grateful for the support of the parents and the community. What he enjoys most from the crowds is the enthusiasm for the sport.
While many schools struggle under the weight of expectations after a successful season, Stevens has high hopes for his squad.
“We certainly want to be a contender for the county title, as well as win our area,” Stevens said. “Most of all, what I want them to do is to play to the level that they’re capable of playing and see what happens. The harder we practice, the more we play, the better we get. These young ladies are so special to me, and we’re excited to get this season started.”