Veterans volleyball rises to the top

Sun News correspondentSeptember 18, 2013 

The Veterans Warhawks volleyball program has made a dramatic rise in just four seasons of existence to the No. 1 ranking in GHSA Class AAAA.

“I think a lot of (our success) is due to opening the gym early,” Veterans head coach Nicole Miranda said. “We get it going every opportunity that we get. We have an open gym in the spring, and we go all during the summer.”

With the Houston County school district not sponsoring volleyball at the middle school level, Miranda is often faced with teaching and exposing girls to the sport for the first time.

She has even instituted a kids camp to let local children know the sport is available and to encourage interested players to join club competition before they reach high school.

“With no middle school volleyball, I have no idea (who’s) coming,” Miranda said. “I usually carry 15 girls on my (junior varsity) for a couple years, and I think that’s helped me build. I’m giving them a chance to grow and learn and get some playing experience. I think that’s helped us get some depth.”

This year’s team is off to a 21-1 start. The Warhawks’ only blemish came to Lee County, a team they would go on to defeat Sept. 5 to avenge the earlier loss.

“We have really good chemistry,” Miranda said. “We have a good rotation down, but I think the key this year is we’re really a much better passing team. Everybody is always looking for the great kill, but if you don’t have passing, it’s done.”

Standout middle hitter Jalyn Slaughter, who also stars on the basketball team coached by Miranda, is a force at the net for the Warhawks. She has been with the program since its inception.

“I’m biased, but I’ll put her up against anybody,” Miranda said. “She’s got the heart and soul. She’s just a competitor. I’ve never coached an athlete that works as hard, cares as much about her teammates and cares as much about winning as she does.”

Veterans’ back line is anchored by the steady play of senior libero and defensive specialist Lauren Prouix.

“She’s been playing with me since she was a freshman, and she covers it,” Miranda said. “All my back row players read the ball really well. All I ask them to do is get touches and then slow it down so that we can transition.”

The GHSA reseeds the field once the playoffs reach the round of eight, and Veterans is hoping for a favorable draw this time around after advancing to that point each of the past two seasons.

“I’m hoping that with the schedule we’ve played and the success we’ve had early, we might land on the good graces of the committee,” Miranda said. “Like I told the girls though, you can’t take anything for granted. You’ve got to win the area and the brackets have to line up for you. Nothing is guaranteed.”

A volleyball state championship would give Veterans its second championship in all team sports. The Warhawks cheerleading squad took home the hardware in 2012 to win the first ever team trophy for the school.

Contact Ryan Jordan at rjordan398@gmail.com.

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