August 9, 2014 6:24:15 PM
This beginning means a little more to Liz Fields.
Two years ago, Fields took over as Heritage Academy's first volleyball coach. She arrived at the school in Columbus armed with plenty of knowledge from her playing days at the University of Alabama.
Little did Fields imagine how much she would enjoy coaching.
Even though Heritage Academy still won't be able to play for a district or a state title in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, Fields is looking forward to seeing how her latest class of seniors matures and improves on what they have learned. That might be a little tougher this year, though, because the seniors on this year's team -- Allie Allsup, Lexi Bennett, Allie Rhett, Natalie Hardy, Harli Sesser and Foster Wiygul have been with Fields since year one, when all of them were learning and growing in different capacities.
"All six of my seniors started with me on day one, so it is definitely bittersweet," Fields said. "I truly love them. It has ben so amazing to see how far they have since day one."
Fields admits she was nervous on her first day as a high school volleyball coach.
That nervousness quickly passed as she immersed herself in the game she loves and started to teach. The players have repaid Fields for her commitment by coming to the gym and working hard every day and pushing the program forward each year.
This year, the Lady Patriots have a mix of "old" and "new." On Thursday, the seniors spent the last part of practice working against the seventh- and eighth-graders on the team. The two sides managed several nice rallies, which was another example of how far the players have come from the beginnings of the program.
"We are meshing," Fields said. "The younger girls are learning to play with the older girls and vice versa. Some of my younger girls probably will be playing up this year."
Fields said she isn't sure what to expect this season. She acknowledged that the team will miss coach Liz Byrne, who worked with the program for the first two seasons. Byrne moved away from Columbus with her family.
Fields said the team will try to develop better consistency after having some great victories and some disappointing losses in 2013. She said the team has set an undefeated season as its goal.
"We have been working hard over the spring and the summer and are really excited about our season," said Rhett, who played setter for two years and will hit this season. "We're going to make some new adjustments, and, hopefully, it will be good for the team."
Allsup said the team is more "well rounded" and should be able to build on improved communication skills and team chemistry. She said the team has grown together from the first days when the players learned how to serve, pass, and hit.
"I think we're going to do really well this year." Allsup said. "It is going to be fun. We have a good group of girls."
Heritage Academy will play host to Caledonia on Thursday at the Mississippi University of Women.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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