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Volleyball teams counting down weeks until first game

It’s crunch time for local volleyball programs as they prepare for their first games of the year, which have been delayed because of COVID-19.

The Picayune Lady Maroon Tide is set to play Aug. 24 and the Poplarville Lady Hornets will have their first game the following day Aug. 25.

Poplarville

Head Coach Robin Jeffries is going into her first season as the head coach of the volleyball program at Poplarville, so there’s been an adjustment period for the coach and her players as they familiarize themselves with one another.

The clock is ticking with only two weeks separating the Lady Hornets from their first game, but Jeffries said the athletes have been open to learning new ideas and strategies.

“I think it’s going to be good. We’ve only been together a few times and it’s really a good group of girls. They work hard, they go through the drills like they’re supposed to and they’re eager to learn. It makes it fun,” Jeffries said.

The season was moved back because of COVID-19, so the team lost multiple regular season games that had been on the original schedule.

That means district games will start without as much of a lead up, but it’s a situation other teams will have to face as well during the shortened season.

“We’re all going to be in the same boat. We’re just going to start how everybody else starts and see how everything goes, then transition into district really quick,” Jeffries said.

Prior to games starting there’s still some work to be done on the court.

Jeffries said certain aspects of the team’s game are progressing well, but there’s always room for improvement.

“I think one of the things we need to most improve on is communication. In volleyball you have to talk to know who is getting the volleyball. The more they play together that’ll get better,” Jeffries said.

Picayune

The Lady Maroon Tide is going into its third season of existence, all of which have been under Courtney Dickens as head coach.

Once practices started Aug. 10 Dickens said the team shifted its focus to more drill base practices in order to get players reps.

Hitting, serving, setting, passing and serve receive have all been points of emphasis for the Lady Maroon Tide as they prepare for their first game.

However, a big focus has been on getting the setters to be more vocal and authoritative when going after a ball.

“We are getting a lot better and I’m seeing improvement. We’ve really been working with our setters on being more aggressive and not calling for help so much. We’re trying to give them a little more confidence,” Dickens said.

The games lost to the delayed start included the Lady Maroon Tide’s jamboree, which usually serves as a testing ground for certain line ups and strategies.

Without that game to experiment, Dickens and her players will have to adapt on the fly as the season progresses and changes are made.
“We’ve changed our rotation and I hate that we’re not playing in the jamboree because we always played around with rotations in the jamboree to see what would work the best. This week we’re focusing more on rotations because we only have this week and next week and then we play,” Dickens said.

Even with all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and how it will affect fall sports, Dickens said her players have been taking advantage of being on the court again.

After seeing what happened to spring sports last year, the athletes understand how quickly things can change and aren’t taking their season for granted.

“I know I’ve said this before but they seem really excited. I think they realize that this can be taken away from them, so they’re hustling. They’re giving great effort in practice so I can’t complain about that part of it,” Dickens said.