fairlea — When fans of Greenbrier East volleyball show up for the first match, they may have to check their programs to be sure it’s not basketball season.
This year, in addition to the quality starters Greenbrier East head coach Matt Sauvage has returning, the Lady Spartans will also be blessed with talent from the highly successful Lady Spartans basketball team.
“I think it is the competition. How to compete,” Sauvage said about what the basketball players bring to his team this year. “If you can compete in volleyball, you can win and they know how to compete.”
Just like most teams in the area, Greenbrier East took a hit from graduation, losing two all-state players from last year’s team.
“Karlei Shaver and Abby Anderson, we are going to miss them,” Sauvage admitted. “We are going to miss what they did on the court, don’t get me wrong, but the leadership and what they brought to the court mentally, that is what we are going to really miss.”
Greenbrier East will feature three seniors this year, led by four-year starter Maggie Thompson, who has been a force at the net her entire career.
“(Maggie) will be running the middle for us and she is doing a great job leading the team,” Sauvage said. “I was wondering how she would handle it and it has been wonderful to see. She has done a great job.”
The remaining seniors are known mostly for their basketball talent, but are no strangers to the volleyball court.
“Both of them played their freshman and sophomore years and have now come back out as seniors,” Sauvage said. “Taylor Dunbar and Haley McClure are both basketball players and very athletic. Taylor will control the right side for us, while Haley we are transitioning to the outside this year. (Haley’s) first two years she played middle for us. Right now she is looking pretty good for us.”
The senior threesome will only be part of what promises to be an imposing threat across the front line for East.
“Taylor pushes 6-foot. Haley is 5-foot-11 and pushing 6-foot,” Sauvage said. “We have Madison Boswell, who is a junior that started for me outside. She is back, she has grown and she is at 6-foot now. The other middle is Nevaeh Wooding who started for us as a freshman, she is right at 5-foot-10. Maggie is 5-foot-10 with some really long arms.”
Amya Damon is a sophomore hoopster who is new to the game of volleyball, but Sauvage expects her to eventually be another force at the net.
“Right now, Amya is on JV, just because she is learning the skills,” Sauvage said. “She is only 5-foot-9, but she touched the highest on the team. As soon as her skill comes along we will have more firepower up front. Front row-wise, as a whole, it is one of the most talented front rows that I have ever coached at East.”
Sauvage also has one of the most dynamic players in the state back this year in junior Chylyn Pate.
“(Chylyn) has a serve, to me, that might be the best in the state when you look at as earning points off her serve. She is that dynamic a server,” Sauvage said. “Not only do you get that aspect, she is one of the best setters in the state and one of the top defenders in the state. She is just a really good player and it has been a joy to have her.”
The one area of concern to start the season is the back row due to youth. However, Sauvage is confident that group will become a force in its own right.
“Our back row is going to be young. They are coming in relatively inexperienced,” Sauvage explained. “Allie Dunford was a freshman last year and she started for us. Emily McClung, she was a freshman last year. She has stepped up, and so has Lauren Smith.”
“Haley will hopefully play all the way around for us,” Sauvage continued. “We will be young, but they are so quick. We will see if we can get to all match up. They are all hard workers and I told them back row-wise, we will have to be and they took it to heart.”
East is part of a brutal region that includes Woodrow Wilson, George Washington and St. Albans. Sauvage feels his team can still be a player for a state tournament berth.
“As a team, they have the potential to have an exciting year. I think it will take a little while to mold it, but by the end of September, we are looking to do some damage around the state,” Sauvage said. “I look for this team to make a run. The chemistry has to come together, but it’s on the right path.”
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