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The Andrew Jackson Lady Volunteers’ volleyball team returns a veteran group and they hope the experience will be to AJ’s benefit.
“We have six players back, including three all-region players, so that can only help us,” said AJ volleyball coach John Verdugo, who is in his fourth season with the Lady Vols’ volleyball program, third as head coach.
Verdugo is assisted by Tammy Twitty.
Danielle Payne coaches the AJ Junior Lady Volunteers team and Sheila Wright works with the AJ Middle School volleyball program.
The Lady Vols’ squad is led by senior captains Tori Roberts and Summer Truesdale.
Roberts and Truesdale return along with juniors Darby Threatt, Haley Faulkenberry and Lauren Rowell – all returning all-region players.
A year ago, Faulkenberry earned the Lady Volunteers’ Best Defensive Player Award and Rowell reaped the Coaches Leadership Award.
Sophomore Hannah Cobb rounds out the returning AJ players.
The AJ newcomers include junior Savannah Fletcher along with sophomores Ann Marie Barton, Katlyn Starnes and Taylor Grace McCowan and freshman Elizabeth Scott.
“I’m pleased with our volleyball program, but we have a long way to go,” Verdugo said. “We’re working well together and keeping a great attitude. Our focus is on the team.”
The Lady Vols, 16-14-2 last season when they earned a postseason bid to the Class AA Upper State playoffs as the region runner-up, open their regular-season schedule Tuesday, Sept. 11 when they face North Central.
“North Central has moved up to Class AA and the Knights are in another region, but they have a good, solid program and that will be a good opening match for us,” Verdugo said.
This weekend, the Lady Volunteers will play in the Hillcrest Invitational, a Greenville area tournament which features a 30-team field.
AJ opens pool play at 8 a.m. Saturday when it will play Spartanburg Christian, Blythewood, Westwood and Eastside Academy.
“That’s a tough pool, but it will only help us to face strong competition at this tournament. The field has larger schools and some defending state champions,” Verdugo said. “We have a tough region and every match will be a battle. That makes it fun and helps prepare you for the playoffs.”
Last fall, Andrew Jackson went 9-2 in region play and tied Indian Land for the regular-season region title before falling in a special play-off match at the Lancaster High School gym.
“I am looking forward to a productive season and expect each of our athletes, middle school, junior varsity and varsity, to play hard and bring credit to the AJ volleyball program.”