“Last year, we had an excellent season,” she said. “Of course, we came in second in the area. We lost to Winterboro. They played harder. That day, they just played harder and they got the job done. We went to regionals. That was in Montgomery, which was just an awesome experience for these girls—all the whistles, all the nets. This year, we want to go all the way. We want to make it to Birmingham. All these seniors—this is their year.”
All-County honorable mention selection and senior Eireonia Sanders echoed Simpson’s sentiment.
“This year, for my senior season, I hope we come on top, strong, we go to state, and we are state champions,” Sanders said.
This will be Simpson’s 10th season as head coach of the Wolves and she believes Talladega County teams have shown great improvement through the years.
“The competition has grown a good bit since I’ve been coaching,” she said. “You have some schools—Lincoln, of course, is always really good. I think even this area in particular the sport of volleyball seems to be growing more and more.”
First-team All-County selection and senior Paige Lee knows the competition in Talladega County is tough.
“We always have tough competition,” Lee said. “We have a great county with great volleyball programs, but I think as long as we work hard and don’t underestimate anybody I think we’ll have no problem taking it home.”
Simpson has coached many of this season’s senior since they were in junior high school, so team chemistry will be one of their strengths.
“All my girls get along; they always have,” Simpson said. “I have a large group of seniors this year. They’ve been together since seventh grade, so they started together. I always practice my seventh through 12th together, so I have all three teams out here. For the younger ones, they get to see a lot more of what’s going on.”
All-County honorable mention and senior Sydney Murphy recalled first playing volleyball with some of her teammates in the sixth grade.
“I expect us to be a really close-knit team and work hard this year,” Murphy said. “We’ve all been playing together for quite a while now. Some of us are new, but we all mesh really well together, we’re all really close.”
The main problem for the team is finding the sort of fire required when a team faces a tense situation in a close game.
“One of our weaknesses is being aggressive,” Simpson said. “They’re sweet girls. Some of them don’t have a mean streak in them to just go out there and get it. That’s something we have to work on.”
When pressed, Simpson was able to name just some of the players she expects to step up as leaders for this season’s team.
“Emily Swancott—she’s our motivation; Sydney Murphy—she’s our voice, she’s going to say it, she’s going to get it out there and lead us in that way; we have some strong hitters—Mackenzie Pennington—she’s one of our better hitters; I’ve pulled up Shelby Wales this year—she’s going to be one of our main setters; Catherine Nelson is one of our more consistent hitters—she’s always been my setter, but she’s going to be hitting some this year just for consistency,” Simpson said. “Our other seniors are Maesa Thacker, Eireonia Sanders, Jasmine Huntley, and Paige Lee.”
Murphy agreed that different individuals show leadership in their own way.
“I think giving positive compliments and constructive criticism to our team is one way to show leadership that I am good at,” Murphy said.
Fayetteville begins their season before a home crowd on Thursday against Victory Christian.
“We do open with Victory Christian,” Simpson said. “I don’t know what they have returning, but they usually have it together. It’s going to be a little competition for us.”
Fayetteville hosts Victory Christian Thursday at 5 p.m.