The Veterans Warhawks opened practice this week in search of its third straight area volleyball championship.
Head coach Nicole Miranda has built her team into the most successful program in Middle Georgia as it enters its fifth year of existence. Veterans has advanced to the elite eight of the GHSA playoffs in two of the last three seasons.
“We had a great summer,” Miranda said. “We had a couple of really good scrimmages and then we went down to Florida’s team camp where we were declared champions for our conference there. That was a real confidence booster.”
Despite all of the recent success, this year’s squad is a young team.
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The departure of The Telegraph’s Player of the Year Jalyn Slaughter leaves a significant void at the net.
“We lost most of our offense, so we’re definitely going to be a defensive minded team,” Miranda said. “We have a strong passing group and a strong serving group. I returned most of my back row players and my setter, so we’re just trying to fill in the plugs with some young people and get them to step up and provide some offense.”
The success of the program has turned more and more student athletes onto the sport of volleyball at Veterans. Miranda now averages between 40 and 50 girls a year who are interested in playing.
“The good news is that I have a pool to choose from, but the bad news is that I now have to make cuts, which is the least fun part of my job,” Miranda said. “We finished up tryouts on Friday and (Monday) marked the first day of our practice as a team.”
Miranda will test her young team right out of the gate. Veterans will play perennial powers such as Columbus, Northgate, Rockdale County, Lee County and Northside-Columbus in the first few weeks of the season.
They also will play four matches against teams from South Carolina, Florida and Georgia in an event hosted by Savannah Country Day School during the first week of September.
“We’re going to take some bumps and bruises early on,” Miranda said. “We’ve got a really tough August schedule, but once we get into September hopefully we’ll have the kinks out and be ready for our area schedule.”
Young team or not, Veterans will not change its expectations.
“Our goal is always to win the area,” Miranda said.