Tift searching for first win

Kingsland – Coach Lori Greene and her young squad of Tift County Lady Devils traveled to Camden County High School on a rainy Saturday for match play against five teams from the coast. A huge task for a squad that six monthes ago didn’t exist, the Lady Devils played their first region match ever, and fell just short.

“We’re really new, and are trying gain confidence in these early contests.” Coach Greene said Saturday. There is a good mix of seniors and underclassmen but none have played the sport competitively. The only other teams in Region 1-AAAAAA are Camden and Brunswick. There are plenty of faces from other sports at Tift represented on the Varsity Volleyball squad. Senior Anna Lee Atwater swims and has run track in past seasons. Junior Emily Coleman spends her spring in another kind of net, serving as the goalie for the Lady Devils soccer team. Devil Basketball fans know the names of seniors DeJai Jordan and Alexis Covington and junior Brecklyn Greene from the hardwood. Jordan, Greene, and Covington are using their ups to block and spike as they learn this new sport.

The Lady Devils played their first games ever in match play at Lee County on August 9th. “We’re working on learning to work together and finding consistency. It’s gonna take a little time.” according to Greene on Saturday. That’s a double-edged sword, as Tift doesn’t have a huge schedule, and especially doesn’t get to spend much time at home in the Palace.

There are already some really bright spots. In the two region matches of the day, Tift led Camden several times in the second set before falling short 25-20. There are some different rules for GHSA volleyball from the traditional volleyball many of us are accustomed to. Where sideouts in the past usually meant a change of possession for serving and no points are awarded, the GHSA has adopted a new scoring system which means that if a serving team “turns the ball over” whether through a service fault, or because they are unable to return a volley, the receiving team gets a point. So on every play, someone scores. It does make the game move faster, but also makes getting your stops and serving well that much more important.

Tift Senior Elise Jones does well from the service line, and Coleman seems to be used as a server specialist. Greene subs in players like senior Charlie Katherine Beckerman and junior Savannah Kendrick for these girls a lot, taking advantage of the subs height as they play the front line. She uses Jordan and Covington in much the same way, rotating them out as they take a turn to serve. It was exciting to watch them become more gelled with each game, talking to each other and getting better with each game.

There’s more good news. The regular season is used as a means to get better, and the records are only used for seeding. There will be an Area Tournament in Brunswick Oct. 10. The records from the region matches will be used to seed the three teams for tourney play. Instead of all teams from our region getting to go to the playoffs, the GHSA has decided to award the 3rd and 4th seed from region 1-AAAAAA to metro Atlanta teams. That means only two of the teams from our region will go to the playoffs. If  Tift wins one match in Brunswick in the Area Tournament, they get a home playoff match. Tift is still hungry, and that first win is coming.

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