GCA volleyball team leans into youth as it takes on season senior-less

Published 9:16 am Monday, August 7, 2023

The Grace Christian Academy volleyball team has ten players returning from last season. The team has no seniors, and head coach Kelsey Harrell said that hasn’t worried her.

“The bulk of the team all played together last year,” Harrel said. “Even though we are a younger team, there’s a lot of chemistry between the players, and that is very helpful, especially with us not having seniors.”

Two juniors, setter Sybil Lee and outside hitter Kate Poitevint, co-captain the team. Harrell said Lee is a natural leader, and her position requires her to be the “quarterback” of the team. Harrel said Lee is “realistic and positive at the same time” and can stay composed in highly emotional situations on the volleyball court.

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“This year, there was no question that she would be a [captain] and that she would lead the team,” Harrell said. 

Harrell said Poitevint adds a “spark” to the team and is an integral part of pumping up and encouraging the team. Poitevint will be moving to outside hitter from playing inside hitter last season. Harrell said Poitevint looked excited by the challenge when she asked her to change positions.

“She’s a phenomenal player,” Harrell said. “We’re excited to see her transition from that middle position to outside and still bring a lot of energy from there.” 

Harrell said she’s looking forward to seeing how junior outside hitter Ali Roberts and sophomore defensive specialist Sawyer Holt play this season after making significant strides from last season. Roberts had to fill in at Labero in the middle of last season. Harrell said Roberts did well in that role but has asked her to transition to outside hitter this season to fill in the gaps left by graduating seniors.

“When I look at Ali, I see more than just a defensive specialist,” Harrell said. “I knew that, even though Ali hadn’t really hit a lot outside, we could work with her to be an outside hitter.”

Harrell said that Holt arrived at summer workouts a completely different player. Holt didn’t have a substantial amount of playing time as a freshman last season. Harrell said she knew Holt had the potential to grow as a player but is surprised and encouraged by the rate of her growth. 

“This summer, I don’t know what clicked with her,… but she just all of a sudden started to bloom and blossom,” Harrell said. “I think a lot of that was with the experience from TVA.”

TVA, Tallahassee Volleyball Academy, is a satellite volleyball club that a majority of the Lady Cougars played for during the offseason. The TVA season runs from January to April, and Harrell said the players benefit from having volleyball to play outside of the season. 

“We’ve seen a huge, huge advantage with the girls participating in that satellite program compared to years that we did not do that,” Harrell said. 

The team has a “stiff” schedule this season, according to Harrell. She picked large public schools and some Florida schools alongside GCA’s standard opponents to purposely challenge her team. 

“I made it tough on purpose so we would be ready for a state tournament,” Harrell said. “We have the ability to handle the schedule.”

The Lady Cougars start their season at home against Colquitt County High School on Aug. 8.