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CHS' Wilson trying to incorporate fresh faces into a winning recipe

Posted: September 1, 2010 10:34 a.m.
Updated: September 1, 2010 10:29 a.m.
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LAUREN JEFFCOAT GIVES CAMDEN a strong presence at the net. The senior and her Lady Bulldog teammates open the season at home tonight against Cardinal Newman and Lugoff-Elgin at 5 p.m.

Like many of the fans at tonight’s home tri-match with Cardinal Newman and rival Lugoff-Elgin, Camden High volleyball coach Paige Wilson will be interested to see how her new-look Lady Bulldogs answer the opening bell in the 5 p.m. start.

Gone are seven players from last year’s AAA Lower State runners-up, while four members of that squad return to the fold. Even though many of the faces on her team will be fresh ones, Wilson said the goals and expectations of the program remain unchanged.

“The goals are always the same,” Wilson said with a smile. “We want to do the best we can do and go as far as we can go.

“We have a lot of people who are new to the varsity level, but we have talent. We just have to get them ready.”

Without having played a match which has counted, yet, Wilson said that watching her team in practice and in scrimmages, she likes the make-up of this group. More important, she offered, the girls on the team seem to mesh well and have worked well together.

One thing about having a team which lost so many good players from a season ago, is that is creates competition for starting and playing time throughout the rotation. That, Wilson said, is a healthy sign for her program and for players who are battling for court time each day in practice.

“We have a lot of people pushing each other for playing time. I think that keeps them all working harder since the lineup is not finalized, yet,” she said.

Wilson has been pleased with the leadership provided by the three seniors on her 11-player squad.

Lauren Jeffcoat is a returnee who brings athleticism and a solid game, both on offense and defense, in addition to being a team leader. Madison Wilson also returns to the fold and is a player whose experience, especially on defense, will be counted on heavily. Classmate Brittany Bradley did not play last season, but her return gives the Lady Bulldogs added presence along the front row, although she can play other spots on the floor.

The four-player junior class has just one player with varsity experience in Kelsey Hutto, who is in her third varsity season. A club player in the off-season, she fills a variety of roles including playing setter and defense while also seeing time along the net. Amber Jackson is a player who has been with the program for the past two seasons and is familiar with high level competition. A hard worker, Wilson said Jackson is a setter who may also get her turns on defense and on the front row.

Olivia Nash is in her second year with the program and is working hard after undergoing off-season knee surgery. She will give CHS a solid presence on the front row. Brittany Bullard, who also plays club volleyball, is ready to step up to the varsity. She is expected to be a defensive specialist.

Wilson is excited about her four-player sophomore class. Maggie Speaks, whose club team traveled to Reno, Nev., to play in the AAU national championship, has been hampered by an ankle injury which has limited her practice time. A returning starter, Speaks will be a setter and see plenty of action on the front row. Brooke Maxwell, a starter for Camden’s softball team, is no stranger to top-level competition. The strong all-around athlete can be used virtually anywhere on the court in order for her skills to be utilized.

Lindsay Cobb is another player who plays on the club circuit in the off-season. She will contribute a solid front row presence. Adry Joseph is also a club player who is ready to make her mark on the varsity level. Her talents will be on display on defense, but her improved front row play in practice will allow Wilson to use Joseph there, if needed.

“I think we will be strong at the net. We should have a variety of front row strengths,” Wilson said. “Other than that, we’re solid all the way around.”

About the only thing some of the players lack is varsity experience, which they will get, soon enough. The focus of the off-season, as well as the pre-season has beens for Wilson and her staff to get their girls prepared for the type of competition which they will see from now on, beginning tonight.

“All of them have been striving to get to the varsity level, so they do know what to expect here. You just need that game experience … I have to get them ready as possible,” she said. “The skill is there. We just have to try to get them prepared the best we can until they can get that game experience.”

If the past is any indication as to how this season will unfold, the Lady Bulldogs romped through Region 6-AAA with hardly a blip on the radar screen in sweeping each of their five conference foes on two occasions each in 2009. In spite of dominating the competition, when it was time for the circuit’s post-season awards to be handed out last fall, Crestwood’s Tierra Allen was tabbed as the most valuable player. That left a sour taste in Wilson’s mouth as in many region matches, she cleared her bench due to lopsided outcomes.

This time around, Wilson said more attention will be paid to league contests. In the same breath, however, Wilson said that in order to give her team a challenge, she continues to line up a steady stream of 4A foes to help prepare her squad for the post-season.

“I really have to rely, totally, on our out-of-region matches to get us ready for playoffs. Still, we can’t take region matches lightly because the post-season awards (in Region 6) didn’t go like I thought they should have gone last year,” Wilson said. “As hard as it might be, you have to play hard and stay focused in the region matches.”

One possible ray of hope in conference play is that Hartsville has been added to the mix, replacing Wilson. From what she has heard of the Red Foxes’ program, Wilson is hopeful that with the addition of the former 4A entry that Region 6 will become a more formidable league.

“With more people playing club, I hope level of play in  our region has picked up,” she said. “We’ve picked up Hartsville, hopefully that will help. I’ve heard they have a jayvee team, which is a good sign. I hope they can add more strength to the region.”

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