Shelby County volleyball ready to rebuild, make community proud

Published 10:38 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – The Shelby County High School volleyball team will be on its third head coach in as many years going into the 2023 season, but the Wildcats aren’t letting that deter them from their goals.

Last year, the team changed coaches going into the season and then lost its coach midway through the season, before Stacy McGehee stepped in to help with the program.

Now, he’ll head into the new season as the leader of this year’s team ready to rebuild the volleyball program into one the community of Columbiana will be proud of.

“I don’t really have win total goals,” McGehee said. “The goal is, did we improve today over yesterday. The goal is to get better each and every practice, each and every game. The end of the year, I don’t want the girls saying, ‘It’s October, it’s time for something else. I want us to still have that passion going into October and realize we have a chance. We do want to have a volleyball program and we want it to be something people want to be a part of and the community can be proud of.”

Success won’t come easily in McGehee’s first season with the loss of five seniors and a new culture trying to be built, but he’s been encouraged by the hard work of the team that he has.

“We lost five seniors off last year’s team, so it is a rebuild,” he said. “But the girls have been working hard since June. If they see what each person can do to help the team, if they can get that going and see that lead to success, it will help.”

Senior setter Madison Wood, who McGehee said is known for her great hands on the court, is already committed to play college volleyball at Mississippi University for Women, will be one the leader of this year’s team as one of two seniors.

Even though she is typically more shy socially, she said she has always been taught to lead by example, and that’s something she is trying to do while also challenging her teammates to match that effort.

“I’m not a very social person, so that’s a challenge,” she said. “I have always been told to lead by example. This year, we have people who want to go in there and work. I want to be hardest working person out there so that hopefully helps them push to be hard working and want to set that same example.”

A member of the team since eighth grade, she has seen the game of volleyball at the varsity level and hopes to use that to her advantage with her high volleyball IQ along with fellow senior Anna Rodriguez.

That experience will be key in helping a team full of juniors and sophomores be ready for different challenges, but Wood said it’s only possible because of the chemistry the team is building.

“I think this year, we have a lot of trust in each other,” she said. “We hold each other accountable. Accountability is our word this year. We are always giving each other feedback and holding each other accountable, but it’s always positive feedback rather than negativity.”

McGehee, who previously served as a basketball and volleyball coach at Maplesville before coming over to Shelby County, said the team has been focused on fundamentals in the offseason.

He said the team is placing an emphasis on the simplicities of the game such as serving, passing and setting to help them grow their confidence.

“Buying in is important. Getting them to believe what we are teaching them will make the difference,” he said. “We are emphasizing certain parts of the game. We talk about our areas and where we need to be. We’re not very tall, so we have to play very good defense and not let a ball drop. We also talk about serves. I’m not big on aces, but I want ball in on serves. We can’t have bad serves and win games. That’s one thing I really stress. You don’t have to have anybody on the other side of the floor if you aren’t putting the ball in play.”

McGehee said he hopes to see 85-90 percent of serves be in play, while passing the ball will be key, so Wood can get a good set for her teammates.

Going into the season, the goal for McGehee is to see his team get better day by day so they can be excited for volleyball in October.