“We just win at the right time,” senior Brittany McGhee said. “There are some teams with better records than ours, but we are the only team in Talladega County that’s still playing, so I guess we win at the right time. We win when it matters. I wouldn’t say that is a good thing, but we are still playing.”
Winterboro hopes their trend of winning at the right time continues today when they take on No.2 Addison (52-6) at 1 p.m. Winterboro is the first volleyball program from Talladega County to advance into the Elite 8. Head coach Sheroderick Smith admits that he is going to follow the successful blueprint from teams like Addison to make sure that this is not their last time making it this far.
“I saw them play in the championship game last year,” Smith said. “They play transition volleyball extremely well. They attack from ever area of the floor. I forgot the number of their setter, but she is extremely smart. She understands how to push my back row back. She understands how to attack the 10 foot line; they attack from the middle and the back. During the course of the game they will rely on their serves. When you have a good volleyball program like that, it starts with your feeders. That’s why the game of volleyball in Class 1A is dominated by roughly four schools. You have to really commit in the youth if you want a program like: Donoho, St.Luke, Addison and one or two more. Those schools are committed to the game of volleyball. My assistant coach and I are already planning for next year, no matter what the outcome is; because once you are suffering from success you want more of that every year. You have to be hungry for that as the great motivational speaker Les Brown says you have to be hungry for anything that’s being negative or taking us off that track we don’t want to be a part of it. We want to be a part of what we are doing now, we want to be a part of our history and we just want more. That is one of the keys of life, you just want more.”
Winterboro (14-12) won at the right time in the South Super Regional to advance to the Elite 8. With their backs against the wall, the Lady Bulldogs seniors stepped up to make clutch plays.
“Everybody has to step up every now and then,” McGhee said. “I think we all had to regroup. Sometimes we play down and sometimes we come out strong. It is always a consistent thing, because we fall off some times. You have to have a positive mindset throughout the whole game to pick your team up. Sometimes everybody doesn’t have a positive mindset, but usually when we get together we usually come out on top most of the time.”
Winterboro enters today’s game focused on playing their brand of volleyball.
“We don’t have anything to lose,” Smith said. “We are underdogs, everybody understands that and we understand that. Why are we not going to play the game that we have been holding our hat on, why are we not going to use the serves that we have been relying heavily on, why are our attackers not going to attack and our setters not going to set? In our mind, we are not just going to lie down and just take a loss. We don’t have anything to lose. We are going to be as aggressive as we can only because we don’t have anything to lose. That is going to be our mindset on Wednesday and we are definitely going to have fun. If we are going to lose, we are going to lose doing the things we held our hat on. We are just going to lose lying down. That’s what I told them and that is the heart of a champion right. When you believe in what you have been doing, that is a real quality of being mentally tough. You are going to do what you do no matter who you are playing. Our girls show a lot of glimpses of what a champion is made of.”
One of their strong attributes this season has been their serves.
“Our serving,” senior Takeya Cunningham said when asked what sets them apart from other teams. “We have some pretty strong girls on our team. Tiffany has a very strong serve and she controls it. Brittany, Jasmine (Richardson) and Tamirra (Johnson) have very strong serves.”
McGhee has been playing volleyball at Winterboro since she was in the seventh grade. She said the coaching staff that they have has been dedicated to helping them accomplish their goals.
“Being that I have been on the team longer than anybody, it really has been a big change; because of all of the coaches that we have been through they depended on the team to do everything,” McGhee said. “We have been so many coaches that we just played our own ball game. Now, it is really different. We do more work. Now we do individual drills, we serve and we scrimmage. We do everything that a real practice is supposed to be about.”
Smith said he sacrificed several things since August to help him focus on being a better volleyball coach as well as a better man.
“It is very ironic, I read that article about the personal sacrifice that I made about the no T.V.,” Smith said. “I said I was going to commit to that for a year and one of the volleyball goals was the Elite 8. I wanted to stay clear of anything that would steer me off that track as far as staying disciplined. Certain books that I have read have allowed me to grow as a person weekly. People can tell the difference in my conversation now. It is more of a focused conversation. I have gotten that comment from several of my friends. They have told me that I talk with a different lingo now in our conversations. When you get out goals in life, you just can’t continue to do the same thing to get a different result. You have to change something up personally. I would do it all over again, because to me the T.V. is nothing that is really helping us out, it is just entertainment. If we are going to consume a lot of things that don’t allow us to get our personal goals, then what are we really doing? So whatever you apply your time to, that is going to dictate your personal success. I have financial goals as well. I have to do things that are going to put me in line with those and I have other goals as well. I feel like I have been blessed to have to opportunity to do the things that I have wanted to do.”
Winterboro assistant coach Vanessa Cook is an a Winterboro alum and is elated to play a role in helping this volleyball program be the first team from Talladega County to advance to the Elite 8.
"This is a moment in my life that I will never forget. It was a dream of mine to have played in the Elite 8, while I was in school at Winterboro,” Cook said. “That opportunity was short-lived, but now that I am able to assist such a determined and driven team my dream has come true. I couldn't have been given this opportunity if Coach Smith wouldn't have asked me to help. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the team. I know on Wednesday's game, we are expected to lose, but I know our girls will fight through every match because they have skills, mindset, and support to do this.”