Just like high school football teams started official practice this week, volleyball teams across the state also took to the courts for their first week of practice. And for two local teams, one thing that’s been beneficial is mixing JV and varsity squads together.

Not only has that helped JV teams get up to speed, it’s also been an advantage to the varsity teams who are learning something by teaching their younger counterparts.

“Just a minute ago, Brooklyn (Edwards) stopped and said, ‘Hey, can I get a ball and show somebody how to do a roll shot?’” Benjamin Russell coach Magan Ford said during Friday’s practice. “That’s nice to see. We’re mixing in JV and varsity so the younger girls can get used to the faster speed. Varsity has done a really good job of embracing that and not getting irritated, so it speaks to our leadership. We have great girls.”

Horseshoe Bend also took on a similar strategy. One of the weaknesses for the Generals’ JV team is serving, so coach Julie Turner had the young girls serving to the varsity team, which then got to work on serve receive.

But for the most part, it’s been a lot of drills for both teams.

“With varsity, we didn’t do anything but passing drills for two hours,” Turner said. “That’s one of our weaknesses still so we were working on that for three days. We did a little bit of hitting (Thursday) and added in some serving then we’ve been working (Friday) on timing with hitters and blockers, trying to get some of them some experience.”

Ford also said she felt like one of the Wildcats’ weaknesses was passing, but that’s something every team needs to work on. 

One of the things Ford has seen that’s really impressed her is her team’s sheer work ethic and excitement. While both coaches said their teams needed to get used to being back in school and balancing classwork with practice, Ford felt her team had brought a great energy to the first week of practice.

“I’ve been really proud of their energy,” she said. “Their work ethic is great too. Our swings have come out and looked pretty good. Timira Lawson has looked better this week than she has all summer. She’s got her timing. She’s got her footwork.”

And for Turner, it’s been an increased level of communication that has stood out for her. That team chemistry was something the Generals lacked at their play date, and Turner said she’s seeing that take a turn for the positive.

“They’re actually communicating better than I thought we would,” she said. “We’ve been working on that and that’s been a focus for us. Overall, varsity is learning more how to work as a team and that comes from being around each other all the time. The more you’re around each other, the better it is.”

With the first games just two weeks away — Horseshoe Bend opens Aug. 22 and Benjamin Russell begins Aug. 24 — there’s only but so much practice time left before it really starts to count.

“Our first game is at the Briarwood Tournament, so that’s going to be great competition,” Ford said. “It’s hard to say if we’re ready for that or not, but we gotta get faster. We know who we’re playing and we know the speed they play so we gotta get to it. But with our work ethic, I think we’ll get there.” 

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