On July 26, the Starkville High volleyball team held their first official practice of the 2010 season. Today, just 11 days later, it's already game time for the Lady Yellowjackets.
With four returning letterwinners, SHS lifts the lid on its new campaign Friday night at 6:30 p.m. against Vancleave as part of the Ridgeland Tourism Set it Off Challenge.
Though the Lady Jackets have just under two weeks of preparation time beneath their belts, don't think for a second that the limited number of workouts concerns coaches Lauren Love and Diana Wileman.
"Volleyball has such a limited, short preseason," explains Love, who is beginning her second year as SHS coach. "A lot of the hard work and effort that goes into volleyball, the students have put in on a voluntary basis during the summer."
Therein lies Starkville's secret to improving on last year's Class 6A playoff berth.
The Lady Jackets understand that for success to come again, they must go above and beyond what is required, something that Love says her team eagerly does.
"They're a motivated group," said Love. "We had very good attendance throughout our optional program over the summer workouts. A number of our girls actually put in a lot of hard work playing on club teams, so that definitely increased their level of experience and knowledge, as well as individual skills. And we played at places like Belmont University in Nashville. That was a great team experience on and off the court."
It's trips like the aforementioned trek to Belmont that Love has used to acquaint herself further with the Lady Jackets in year two.
"Last year, even with a new coach and a new system, we were quite successful," said Love. "The student-athletes really did a great job. This time around, it's been good to have the opportunity to work with the girls a little more over the summer."
Love is looking for all the hard work to transform into a solid performance tonight against Vancleave. Then, with a win, against either Lake Cormorant or Brandon in an 8:30 p.m. game.
A loss would set up a 9:30 p.m. game against the loser of Lake Cormorant and Brandon. The Set it Off Challenge continues on Saturday.
Starkville opens the home portion of its schedule Tuesday against Corinth, and begins district play September 7, hosting South Panola.
Love says both Wileman and herself are anxious to watch their Lady Jackets battle through this year's slate.
"We just enjoy watching a group of girls that love playing volleyball," said Love. "It's fun for us to see them having fun, and see them progress and learn."