In the South, we are in football country. And that’s just fine.
Football rules the South. Friday nights are spent at high school stadiums around the state, and Saturdays, attention is turned to the Alabama and Auburn games.
But there’s another sport athletes give just as much hard work and dedication to going on during the fall, and that’s volleyball. Just like football teams, volleyball squads around the area have spent their summers doing workouts, camps and playdates and their seasons are right around the corner as well.
With football breathing down our necks, Caleb Turrentine and I took a break from the gridiron on this week’s episode of Insides the Lines Podcast to talk volleyball.
Before getting into the meat of our episode which featured an interview with Horseshoe Bend volleyball coach Julie Turner and rising senior Ashley Clanton, Caleb and I talked about the teams to watch in Tallapoosa and Elmore counties.
One of the recurring themes through the two counties is a slew of new coaches. Wetumpka, Central Coosa and Edgewood are all under the direction of new coaches, and Dadeville’s Jenni Roy will also have her first full season after moving up to varsity midway through last season.
Edgewood, of course, will be a team to watch as the Wildcats enter with a hunger to once again earn the state championship after being runners-up a year ago. Elmore County, which has won nine titles in a row, should be on top of its game especially after Panthers coach Kim Moncrief dropped softball from her repertoire to focus solely on volleyball.
Wetumpka and Horseshoe Bend have both won back-to-back area championships and should be favorites in their respective divisions again, and although Benjamin Russell lost two key pieces, it went undefeated at its play date and is looking strong to start the preseason.
The conversation then shifted to an interview with Turner and Clanton. Turner is a 1996 Horseshoe Bend graduate who is entering her third year as the Generals coach, and Clanton is entering her sixth year playing volleyball for HBS.
Turner explained some of the things the Generals focused on during the offseason which revolved a lot around a workout plan set up by athletic trainer Marty McCann.
“We wanted to work on more strength in our legs and our arms and quickness,” Turner said. “He came up with a plan, and Marty was there in the gym the first day. He’s done every workout with the girls and I think they respond better to him than they do to me.”
Clanton said, “We really focused on speed and trying to get faster. He also really helped us on our verticals so we can jump higher.”
One of the main topics of conversation on Inside the Lines Podcast was team chemistry. Because volleyball is such a mental game, having a thick skin and a short memory has always been a focus for Turner.
“Volleyball is a faster-paced sport than many of the other sports we have here locally,” Turner said. “With it being so fast, you have to rely on your teammates to be able to pick you up when you’re down. Let’s say you pass the ball and you shank it. If you let that bother you, that can come back and turn into five errors. If you have good teammates and good team leaders, they’ll say, ‘Hey, it’s OK. Let’s get the next one.’”
Also because of the quick nature of the game, knowing your teammate is especially important. Some balls certain players are better equipped to handle than others, and it’s important to know your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.
“We just have to be able to trust each other,” Clanton said. “We have to believe that when they they say they got it, we have to trust they got it. But we have to back them up and be there if they shank it or whatever. We just really have to trust each other and listen to each other.”
To listen to the full podcast, visit our websites or find us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Next week, we will shift back to football and be releasing a podcast every weekday starting Aug. 5 leading up the football season. The first will focus on the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll then the next 11 will preview each local team before leading into a Week 0 preview.