“Elite 8 is one of the goals that we set in the summer,” Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “I think we set three goals, we have achieved all of them. Being one of the first in the county and school history to make it is a hug accomplishment. It says a lot to the girls for being mentally strong at times where they need to be. They are kids, so they are going to have some let downs. One of the kids stated that we win at the right time and I take that as a huge confident statement that’s deserving of our team. It gives a testament to the coaching staff too, because we have a coach on staff that played here between 5-10 years ago. We have a coach/statistician and she has been very helpful as well. To say hard work pays off can be a true statement, but hard work with the proper action to make the work, work is definitely worth everything that we have been able to accomplish.”
Winterboro takes on No.2 Addison at 1 p.m. at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Wednesday. Since advancing to last weekend’s South Super Regional tournament in Montgomery, the Lady Bulldogs have been picked to lose every match and Wednesday will be the same. Addison enters Wednesday’s game with the second most wins among teams remaining with 52.
“We are trying to shock the world,” senior Jasmine Richardson said. “They don’t think that we can win it, but we have the opportunity to show them that we can win.”
Senior Tamirra Johnson said that the Lady Bulldogs really don’t feel that much pressure going in since not much is really expected out of them. She believes that will allow them to play freely and take more chances.
“We don’t have anything to lose, so we are going to come out being aggressive,” Johnson said. “We have to make good mistakes as Coach Smith would say. You have to take chances of being aggressive at the net, because if we play scared to we are going to lose.”
Winterboro (14-12) defeated Brantley in five sets on Saturday at the Cramton Bowl Complex to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time in school history.
“It was a hard win,” Richardson said. “Brantley is a real good school and like Coach Smith said they are a championship school. We had to play our ‘A’ game to beat them and we pulled it out.”
Johnson has played on the varsity volleyball team since she was in the eighth grade. In her first three seasons, the Lady Bulldogs struggled. She is elated to be a part of a team that has a chance to exceed their goals by winning two games on Wednesday and play for a Class 1A state championship.
“I am excited to be a part of it,” Johnson said. “I have been playing for five years and we really never had goals. We have always been taught to win games and we never had goals to win the area and go further. Our main focus was just to beat Fayetteville. But now just to be able to go further than that and go to the Sweet 16 like we did last year and go a step further with the Elite 8 is a good feeling.”
In their game against Brantley, the Lady Bulldogs had to battle back in a fifth set after taking the first two sets to pull off the upset. Richardson said that they learned from that experience.
“First, we have to stay positive and make sure everybody on the court has the same mind set,” Richardson said. “We have to push all the way through and never give up.”
Smith strengthened their schedule this season with hopes that it would pay off in the postseason and it has.
“Our team record is not as good as it was last year and I don’t think we played as hard as we did last year,” Johnson said. “But the fact that we are going further is a blessing and I am proud of my team. If we continued to play the same area and the same teams that are in our county it shows that you are a good local team. You are not having the chance to play other competitive teams, so you are not getting better. You are only as good as your area.”
Richardson hopes in the long term that future Winterboro teams will be inspired and try to obtain the same success or more than this team has accomplished. She also believes their success this season in volleyball could carry over into basketball and other sports.
“It feels good, because the volleyball players in the future will be able to look up at the banner and see what we have accomplished,” Richardson said. “Maybe that will inspire them to break more records than we have and do better than we have done. I think it is a good experience to be the first team in history to make this far. We are a group of girls that really wants it and maybe it carry over in each sport that we play.”
Johnson said no matter what the outcome of Wednesday’s game, she wants every team and spectator to remember Winterboro.
“Whether we win or lose, we want to show up and show out,” Johnson said. “Whether we win or lose, I think we should play our hardest and make known that Winterboro showed out and that we did our best.”