Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Benjamin Russell's Brooklyn Edwards (6) puts a ball past Horseshoe Bend's Jahia Jennings during Clay Central's play date Thursday.

Dedication has been the name of the game this summer for Benjamin Russell’s volleyball team. Every player has been showing up to voluntary workouts and every player has been putting in extra effort.

Thursday, the Wildcats put all that together at Clay Central’s play date with Horseshoe Bend, Ranburne, Handley, Munford and the Volunteers.

“This is about seeing the hard work that we’ve put in come together,” BRHS coach Magan Ford said.

And it certainly did come together for Benjamin Russell, which went undefeated on the day. The only loss it suffered was one set against Horseshoe Bend, but the Wildcats quickly stormed back to win the final two sets, 25-11 and 13-5.

It was impossible for Ford to point to exactly what made BRHS so successful, which was a good problem to have.

“All the way around, all 10 of them have been strong,” Ford said. “I think that’s what’s making (Thursday) so special. (The coaches) have just sat back and watched, and every single girl is contributing. I could say our front row is doing amazing but then I’m like, ‘Well, our front row is doing amazing because our back row is getting it to them.’”

She’s also impressed with the leadership and team chemistry her team has displayed throughout the summer and on Thursday.

“I have never been a part of a team that gels like these girls do,” Ford said. “They don’t want to let each other down and they hold each other accountable. Being able to work on a day like this where you’re playing so many games, we’ve worked on consistency. They’ve had a few moments where they let things get away from them and then they gather themselves. And they’re doing that, not me, which I’ve been really impressed with.”

Benjamin Russell did lose two key defenders in libero Bailey Atkins and left back Handley Owens, but although the back row may seem young, the players have a decent amount of varsity experience.

“The back row is fairly new but they’re not really,” Ford said. “They got a lot of reps in last year, and they’ve played a lot together. Cheaney Keel played club ball all spring and you can really see a difference in her game from playing club ball.”

The glue that seems to hold things together is setter Makenzie Davis, who returns to start for the second year in a row. Ford called her a weapon, and it was easy to tell when she was getting solid passes, she was easily getting it to her hitters. Davis also did a nice job throughout the day of knowing when to mix in her tips and was frequently creating something when she didn’t get the best pass.

Although Benjamin Russell looked extremely good during Thursday’s play date, all of the participating schools are smaller classifications and Ford knows there are some tough opponents ahead for the Wildcats. They play Auburn and Chelsea during the regular season and are also going to Montgomery Academy’s tournament. The Eagles are the defending Class 3A champion.

“Our big thing right now — and I think this is any team — is just transitioning from offense to defense and not letting yourself get caught up and watching the other side when you’ve got a job to do,” Ford said. “We’ve been a little sluggish on that. It hasn’t been too bad, but I know when we’re playing 6A and 7A schools, it’ll be different.

“We just need to look at the little things. Our passes look pretty good; our swings look good; our serves look good. Are we in the right spot? Are we low? Are we talking?”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.