STARKVILLE -- As Starkville Academy's third head coach in the last three seasons, Robert Gardner has the attacking tools to make the Lady Volunteers a postseason threat. But will defense and youth be too much to overcome? One year removed from a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA playoff berth, the Lady Volunteers are unsettled on who'll man the back line. Also, the team has just one senior (Shelby Carpenter), and no juniors.
Former Hamilton High School baseball standout Dylan Earnest has added another honor to his array of accomplishments. In June, Earnest was chosen to the Louisville Slugger High School All-American team. Earnest, a left-handed pitcher/outfielder, led the Lions to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A title series, where they lost in two games to Richton. He is playing with the Pontotoc Red Sox in the American Legion Mid-South Regional in Grand Prairie, Texas. He will attend Itawamba Community College when he returns.
STARKVILLE -- Jeff Terrill's positive energy is infectious. And it's a good thing as Starkville Academy's football program is attempting to climb out of the valley and to the top of the mountain. Today's home scrimmage against Leake Academy gives the Volunteers their first chance to play against a different team since Terrill took over at the beginning of the year. Eager, hungry, anxious and antsy, the Vols have been buoyed by Terrill's diligence in creating an expectation to be better than they've been since winning a state title in 2005.
CALEDONIA -- Samantha Brooks loves to build. Three seasons ago, Brooks took over as head coach of the Caledonia High School volleyball program with a stable of sophomores. She realized at the time those players had the potential to help establish the foundation for a program. The best thing about sophomores is they become juniors and then seniors.
STARKVILLE -- Playing as a team is a goal every athlete and coach will list at some point of the season. And as cliché and obvious as the concept might seem, a team won't get far with individual play. Starkville High School volleyball coach Lauren Love has been drilling that concept to her squad since she took over last season. Communication is vital for solid team play, but the spirit of playing for one another can help overcome any deficiencies or lack of experience.
Krisi Boren saw the progress last season. After making it to the Division II state title game in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools in 2008, Boren watched as her team adjusted to playing against Division I competition in '09. The Lady Patriots experienced their share of growing pains, going 6-7 and finishing fourth in their district.
Michael Bradley isn't alone. Like most of his peers, the New Hope High School football coach was elated to start another season. Bradley has an extra bounce in his step because the Trojans are coming off an 11-win season in 2009 and have a team that has the potential to be even more successful this year. But as eager as Bradley is to get this season started, he wasn't very happy about when his team had to begin its preseason workouts.
Chloe Tapley is used to taking the initiative. As a pitcher, Tapley is one of the area's most proficient strikeout artists. At the plate, where she admits she doesn't feel she is as productive, Tapley has learned to slap or to get on base to help her team any way she can.
WEST POINT -- Sometimes it is as easy as sling it or chunk it. Julianne Jackson admits she doesn't have an array of pitches, but Monday she showed a simple approach is extremely effective.
What a way to kick off the season. Coming off a victory Friday against Starkville Academy, the Hebron Christian fast-pitch softball team knew Saturday could be a long day at the Winona Christian tournament. The team's stay nearly lasted as long as it expected. After losing their first game in their second game at the double-elimination tournament, the Lady Eagles battled back to win their next three games before eing eliminated with a 5-1 loss to Canton Academy.
Jessica Dickens hopes the work the Starkville Academy fast-pitch softball team put in in the offseason will pay dividends this season. If Saturday is any indication, the Lady Volunteers should be just fine. Coming off a loss to Hebron Christian on Friday, Starkville Academy defeated Heritage Academy 19-2 in five innings and Central Academy 16-13 before losing 8-3 to Oak Hill Academy in its third and final game at the Heritage Academy tournament at Propst Park.
Mamie Allen was ready. The Oak Hill Academy pitcher had talked with coach Marion Bratton, so she knew she likely would start in the circle Saturday for the team's first two games of the Heritage Academy tournament at Propst Park. The sophomore right-hander didn't mind she would have to shoulder such a load in 90-plus degree heat.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School's first fall scrimmage during head coach Jamie Mitchell's tenure had a little bit of everything Saturday morning. But the multitude of pre-snap penalties and fumbled snaps were potentially offset by a string of long plays from sophomore skilled players. The long grind of opening week culminated with an intrasquad scrimmage in front of an estimated crowd of 100 Yellow Jacket fans.
WEST POINT -- Depth was a problem for Oak Hill Academy fast-pitch softball coach Marion Bratton in 2009. Season-ending injuries to Paige Dawkins and Mary Helon Hays left the Lady Raiders without two starters and created openings for younger players. Without two key contributors on offense, Bratton's team had little margin for error and was forced to live with the growing pains associated with an inexperienced squad.
Cass Tapley hopes experience equals urgency this season. A year ago, the Hebron Christian fast-pitch softball coach could only scratch his head and wonder about his team. The Lady Eagles sputtered through the first part of the season and seldom resembled the team Tapley knew it could be.
Bud Lowe will play a numbers game this season. The hope for Lowe, who is in his first season as Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball coach, is that those numbers -- how many players he has on his team and how many victories the squad gets -- will only get bigger.
Bubba Davis and Aaron Lee are excited to be part of the Immanuel Center for Christian Education's growth. For Davis, it's only natural he will work in his role on the football field. The former football coach at West Point and Columbus high schools recently finalized plans to work as an assistant coach to Shawn Gates on the ICCE football team. Davis already has begun work with Gates and assistant coach Daniel Merchant and Lee, who also will work as an assistant football coach, girls track and field coach, and a Spanish teacher at the school.
STARKVILLE -- A move here. A move there. Let's see if that works. For much of Jessica Dickens' time as head coach of Starkville Academy softball, that has been the order of readying the team for the 2010 season. The former Leake Academy standout spent two seasons as an assistant on Randy Haynes' staff and took over in the spring following his swan song in 2009.
Rusty Greene has always enjoyed dabbling in the graphic arts. When he attended Mississippi University for Women, he thought that area of study would be something he would do professionally for the rest of his life. But Greene changed his mind just about when he was ready to receive his degree and decided to go back to school to become a teacher and a coach.
MACON -- The names might be different, but the approach will stay the same. That's the message Sammy Lindsey and the rest of the Central Academy fast-pitch softball team want opponents to know this season.
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