Sorting through a large number of potential players at tryouts Friday, third-year Liberty County High School volleyball coach Lauren Hale seemed pleased with the large turnout and talent.
Hale said they will have a lot of returning seniors, and the Lady Panthers added some athletes who transferred from First Presbyterian Christian Academy or moved into the area due to the military.
“We do have some talent here,” she said while scoping the gym. “I think we will be stronger than we were last year, and we are continuing to build the team from where I started three years ago.”
The Lady Panthers were much younger last year and still in the rebuilding process. They earned three victories last season, which was an improvement from the year before.
“It wasn’t the improvement we wanted, but we did make it to the second round of the regional tournament,” Hale said. “That put us in a good position with some regional wins.”
Hale said she will select a roster of up to 16 girls for the varsity. Unlike past seasons, there will be no junior-varsity squad this year.
“I wanted to field a JV, but I am seven months pregnant,” she said, adding it is a boy and her and her husband Casey Hale’s first baby. Casey, a graduate of Liberty County High School and former kicker in football, is coaching the Panther kicking team.
But Hale is determined to keep her focus on the season ahead.
She said her players attended volleyball camp over the summer at Armstrong Atlantic State University under the direction of coach Will Condin, and it definitely improved their games.
“Our strength this year is definitely going to be ball control,” she said, adding it was the focus of their summer camp. “The girls learned how important ball control is and that is … and this year, we have some girls that have some height and, as they always say, you can’t teach height.”
She wants another shot at the playoffs and added a few new teams on the schedule this season to push her players and get them ready.
“We are going down to Brunswick to play Camden and Glynn in some non-region matches to challenge our team,” she said.
The Lady Panthers travel will start the season Wednesday at South Effingham to play the host school and Burke County. Their first match starts at 5 p.m.