Tuesday, August 09, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titan volleyball gets enthusiam from new coach

Leader sports editor

A lot has changed for Jacksonville athletics since the advent of the new school district. With change comes an adjustment period, but one group that is used to change may be finding some stability.

The Lady Titan volleyball team will have its fourth head coach in as many years, but Savannah Jacoby has designs on ending that, as she takes over in her first head-coaching position and leads the program in its first year of district independence.

Jacoby was previously the assistant coach at Mills for one year. Before that she was a club coach in Hot Springs and Little Rock. As a high school star in Texas, she went on to play two years of college volleyball at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia before suffering a career ending back injury her sophomore season.

She transferred her enthusiasm for the game to coaching, and is aiming to build a strong and competitive program at Jacksonville.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to become a head coach my second year of teaching,” said Jacoby. “I was told about the opening and encouraged to apply. I didn’t even expect to get an interview, but I got one. I didn’t expect to be offered the job, but I was offered. It happened so fast. I was hesitant, but I prayed about it. My family was so supportive, telling me, ‘this is what you’ve always wanted, so why not do it’. And I’m so thankful that I did. I really think I have a very special group of girls.”

Jacoby held tryouts two weeks before the end of last school year, and has implemented a rigorous offseason schedule that the players have embraced.

After the dead period, June was mostly voluntary workouts, but that changed in July.

“We really hit the ground running with two-a-days,” Jacoby said. “We had 10 practices in a week, morning and evening. Everyone was there, every single time, and they haven’t complained about it. They’re ready to go, ready to play. They are so hungry for success and want to build a program here. I was so hoping to have a group of girls that would want to learn and work hard, and I’m so thankful that I have that.”

While players are adjusting to another new coach, Jacoby is adjusting as well. Club players are usually very experienced players with goals of playing in college. Jacksonville has a few that have played club volleyball, but most others didn’t start until middle school or later, and only play school ball.

“It’s definitely a different challenge, but it’s great to have these girls that are so eager to learn. I have a passion for this game, to share my knowledge and hopefully get some of these girls to fall in love with the game I fell in love with.”

While the team may be short on experience, it has its upside.

“I would definitely say it’s an athletic team,” Jacoby said. “There are some really good athletes out there. I don’t know how many of them have played together, but they are very talented and very coachable, and that’s also very important.”

Jacoby didn’t know much about what Jacksonville had coming back this year. She coached against them twice last season, but that team had several seniors. She decided not knowing was better.

“I didn’t look at a roster from last year because I didn’t want to know any of that,” Jacoby said. “I wanted to start with a clean slate and find the players I thought I could work with.”

The high school team has 23 players, with 10 on the varsity squad and 13 on JV.

“I’m especially excited about the athletes on the varsity team,” Jacoby said. “There’s a lot of potential there, and as hard as they are working, I think they can do something special and start laying the foundation for a successful program.”

The entire high school staff is new. Jacoby is joined on the varsity staff by assistant coach Jamie Briggs. Erica Harrod heads the ninth-grade team and Carmela Moore will help with that group.

“It’s also such a blessing to have the opportunity to hire my own assistants because I know it’s not usually that way,” Jacoby said. “This was a rare opportunity here with the new district. Coach (Jerry Wilson) let me be in on the interview process and have some say in that, and I’m very excited about our new staff as well.”

Jacksonville’s first match is Aug. 22 at Greenbrier. The first home game is Aug. 23 against Episcopal.