Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Titans expect getting better

Leader sports editor

For the first time in more than a half decade, the Jacksonville volleyball team will have the same coach it had the year before, and that should lead to some improvement from the Lady Titans in the upcoming 2017 season.

Second-year coach Savannah Jacoby, whose job as head coach was at JHS last season, has an experienced group back from last season, and it went through an extensive and comprehensive offseason for the first time under the new leader.

“We did a little more practicing in June this year than last year, but we did not do two-a-days this year,” said Jacoby. “I took them through a hard strength and conditioning program in the offseason, and I’ve seen a lot of good changes from that. They’re stronger and jumping higher. We don’t really have any height so our jumping is going to be very important for us this year.”

One key player back is senior Rebecca Brown, who led the team in kills last season and returns to lead the middle of the rotation. She suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in December, and has only recently returned to 100 percent. Jacksonville took part in a live action team camp at UALR on Monday and Tuesday of this week, and Jacoby was encouraged by Brown’s performance.

“She was a little nervous and hesitant at the start because thelast time she played she tore her ACL,” Jacoby said. “So she was a little timid, but she got right back into it. Her vertical still looks good. She’s getting high into the air, so it’s just a matter of getting comfortable again.”

Playing on the outside will be junior Baysia Brown, who Jacoby calls the overall best athlete on the team.

“As far as all the way around, she’s our most athletic player. She will be on the outside for us, but her and Rebecca will play all the way around. Baysia also has really good vision. She sees the court really well and can find spots not every high schooler can hit.”

Senior Lindsey Holt returns as the starting libero and Aaliya Burks is the other returning regular starter.

“Those two will be important for us for the their play and leadership,” Jacoby said. “Lindsey is a go-getter on the back row for us.”

Junior Shondae Wesley and sophomore Blair Jones, Jacoby says, would round out the starting lineup if the team had to play today.

A key piece of evidence that the Lady Titans are better this season is in their performance on day one of the UALR team camp. Jacksonville played 14 games against seven different teams and went a respectable 8-6. Last year at the same camp, the Titans went 0-14. That earned them a spot in the Gold bracket for the second day of the camp, which was a tournament that ended after Leader deadlines.

“About halfway through on Monday I told the girls, ‘hey guys, we’re doing OK here.’ I think that was good for us. You could see a little confidence building. They expect to be better.”

Another key difference Jacoby is looking for this season is more maturity, and she thinks she will see it.

“One thing we’ve talked about a lot is a two-second rule,” Jacoby said. “You’ve got two seconds to have your pity party about the mistake you just made, but then it’s on to the next point. It seems like we’re buying into that, and that will be important. Volleyball is a mental game and if you’re not mentally tough, you’re not going to be successful. I think we’re learning that.”