• 73°

LaGrange volleyball team working hard

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It’s almost match time for the LaGrange High volleyball team.

LaGrange, which is under the direction of first-year head coach Tejay Dowden, will be on the court in a little more than a week for a preseason scrimmage, and it will open the regular season on Aug. 11.

To prepare for the season, the players have been gathering

at the school for voluntary summer workouts since June 8 when teams were given the go-ahead by the Georgia High School Association to return to work. Mandatory preseason practice will begin on Monday.

“We started off in the midst of Covid 19, and only had like seven girls,” Dowden said. “But then as they started getting more comfortable, and the restrictions started to let up a little bit, I had my regular teams coming in and we’ve had like 33 girls every time. They’re committed.”

Dowden has taken over the program following the departure of long-time coach Angie Newton.

While Dowden is new to LaGrange High, she was already familiar with most of the players since she has been the volleyball coach at Gardner Newman Middle School since 2016.

“They already know me, and that helps a lot,” Dowden said.

Dowden is an Iowa native, and she played volleyball in college before making the move to Georgia, and she began her coaching career as an assistant on the Troup High volleyball team in 2014.

After earning a master’s degree from LaGrange College, Dowden began teaching and coaching at Gardner Newman during the 2016-2017 school year.

Now, Dowden will try to help LaGrange get things moving in the right direction after some difficult seasons where wins were hard to come by.

“My varsity team has many players with potential that maybe haven’t been pushed to their potential yet,” Dowden said. “I’m hoping to challenge them, and see a couple of them move on beyond high school. Developing that competitive attitude is key. You have to develop that winning attitude.”

Dowden is appreciative of the positive reception she has received from LaGrange athletics director Mike Pauley, as well as the parents of the players.

“(Pauley is) very supportive, and my booster-club parents, they’re very supportive as well,” Dowden said. “They’ve said whatever you need, let us know.”

LaGrange has a scrimmage match against Callaway on Aug. 7, and it will begin the regular season on Aug. 11 at Pacelli.

Dowden is glad the Grangers will have a scrimmage before they begin playing for keeps.

“I’m hoping it will shake off the nerves,” she said. “We can get that out of the way, we can run plays, and that’s a good opportunity for me to step on the court and coach since it’s a scrimmage. I always like to start the year off with a scrimmage.”