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High school volleyball preview: Lady Falcons volleying toward victory
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Buford
Lady Wolves

Region:6-AA

2008 record: 18-20

Coach: Marianne Cagle

Key players: Elizabeth Darden (297 digs); Morgan Nash (2 apg.); Denee Badois (83 aces); Nancy Mattox (51 blocks)

Chestatee
Lady War Eagles

Area: 7-AAA

2008 record: 15-11, 6-4

Coach: Julie Rushing

Key players: Madison Yates (Sr.); Melissa Bailey (Sr.); Jennifer Hill (So.)

East Hall
Lady Vikings

Region: 7-AAA

2008 record: 7-32, 1-10 Region 7-AAA

Coach: Ted Deppe

Key players: Hannah Hix (Sr.); Courtney Bivens (Sr.)

Flowery Branch
Lady Falcons

Region: 7-AAA

2008 record: 34-12, 8-2 Region 7-AAA

Coach: Bryan Mavis

Key players: Samanthan Salyers (177 kills, 57 aces, 86 digs and 19 blocks); Danielle Miller (141 kills, 134 aces, 275 digs)

Gainesville
Lady Red Elephants

Area: 7-AAA

2008 record: 3-22, 1-9

Coach: Clay McDonald

Key returning starters: Daniela De la Vega; Katelyn Whelchel; Shaye Roper

Habersham Central
Raiders

Region: 8-AAAA

2008 record: 37-9, 9-2

Coach: Jennifer Elsey

Key players: Haley White Sr., Megan Rowland (Sr.); Chelsea Smith (Sr.), Hillary Hill (Sr.); Jaclynn Campbell (Sr.)

Jackson County
Panthers

Region: 8-AAA

2008 record: 2-23, 0-4

Coach: Crystal Colley

Key players: Valicity Caufman Sr., Breanna Chapman (Jr.); Jasmine Williams (Sr.)

Jefferson
Dragons

Region: 8-AA

2008 record: 17-18, 5-4

Coach: Mike Paul

Key players: Karla Carreno Jr., Mandy Daniel (So.); Cassie Metcalf (So.); Taylor Cramsey (So.)

Johnson
Lady Knights

Region: 7-AAA

2008 record: 26-14, 7-3 Region 7-AAA

Coach: Deborah Eidson

Key players: Shelley Farley (62 aces, 66 kills, 86 digs); Mary Fiorentino (106 kills, 96 digs); Jenna Stone (Sr.)

Lakeview
Academy
Lady Lions

Region: 8-AA/A

2008 record: 15-18, 6-3 Region 8-AA/A

Coach: Karen Towles

Key players: Louisa Jacobs (97 kills, 74 digs); Megan Rochester (65 kills, 54 digs, 56 blocks); Morgan Black (30 kills, 29 blocks)

North Hall
Lady Trojans

Region: 7-AAA

2008 record: 26-20

Coach: Emi Hughes

Key players: Evann Rowland (Sr.); Kathryn Bell (Jr.); Sarah Paschall (So.)

West Hall
Lady Spartans

Area: 7-AAA

2008 record: 17-26, 3-7

Coach: Joe Nelson

Key players: Sadie Cornett, (Sr.); Kristen Holmes, (Sr.); Julie Walsh, (Jr.)

The time for summer improvement has been replaced by the time to show what improvements have been made.

With the start of school comes the start of competitive high school sports seasons and volleyball ramps up this week with scrimmages in preparation for the season openers.

Entering his eighth year at the helm of the Flowery Branch volleyball program, Bryan Mavis makes no bones about his team’s goal this year.

"We would love to have the area championship that has eluded us three times now," he said.

After winning just five matches in their first three years combined, 2005 marked the Lady Falcons first trip to the state playoffs — and the first time they finished second in the area. The following three seasons included two more state playoff berths for the Lady Falcons, and two more second-place finishes in the area.

Boasting a roster of six seniors, including key players Samantha Salyers (177 kills, 57 aces) and Danielle Miller (141 kills, 134 aces) from 2008, Mavis and his players are hoping this is their year to break through.

"This group is tighter knit than the others were," Mavis said. "I’m looking forward to this season for sure."

According to its coach, Flowery Branch comes into the year with more height, jumping ability and offensive weapons than in year’s past, but lacking one core component: ball control.

The loss of a setter like 2008 Times Volleyball Player of the Year Jennica Ramey (833 assists in four years) greatly contributes to that void.

"We can’t replace what’s missing," Mavis said. "But we’ll make up for it in other areas and sophomore setter McKenzie Grewett learned from (Jennica) Ramey and has stepped up to lead the offense on the court this summer."

The Lady Falcons’ program has been built on accountability, as evidenced by the 2005 season when Mavis put the fate of the season on his senior’s backs.

"I had a couple of friends who said they expected us and West Hall to go to state (in 2005), but after the first couple of matches, it wasn’t looking like we knew what was going on," Mavis said. "I put it to the seniors, challenged them to start being leaders. We played better the next week, and (state) started looking like more of a possibility.

"The confidence level from (the seniors) changed," he added. "I attribute most of that (success) to the seniors, not me. Because as much as I wanted to get out there and play, it had to take somebody on the floor stepping it up, and all five of them did that."

It was in that season that a trend, most recently carried on by players such as Ramey and Meghan Grewett, began; and Mavis knows that the trend continuing will be a key this year.

"If you’re going to depend on how your seniors step up, like we do, then the difference in how our program was and how it is now has been the leadership from the seniors," Mavis said. "It’s invaluable for a program to have girls who have been there for four years, able to not just tell their teammates how it should be done, but show them."

Having six players with the ability to do that led to a lighter summer schedule for the Lady Falcons. They went to individual camps and had individual workouts, but only went to one team camp.

"We had tryouts the first day we were allowed to and have been working since," Mavis said. "(The lighter-than-usual summer) doesn’t bring about a feeling of, ‘Oh no, we’re not prepared.’

"I’m not stressed about how much work we didn’t do this summer because these girls have been part of the program for years, understand what I want, understand the fundamentals needed and are ready."

As if the Lady Falcons needed added incentive, the first two rounds of state will be played at the gym of the higher seed — a contrast to state tournaments’ past.

"We’d love to host state," Mavis said, "and we’d like to make it to the elite eight.

"But there’s a lot of work to be done before a conversation like that can happen."

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