Earning the top spot in national rankings does not matter now. The 27 consecutive victories do not matter now. The only thing the 2019 Edgewood volleyball team is holding on to from last year is the three-set loss to Macon-East in the state championship.
Edgewood coach Hannah Josey was not with the Wildcats last season but it did not take long for her to realize the players were still hurting from that final game. While some coaches will want to see their players move on, Josey took a different route with her new team before the season started.
“I bring it up every once in a while, to keep them focused,” Josey said. “I even made them watch some of the game film from it too so they definitely hold on to it. I know it still stings but I want them to use that loss as a fuel to the fire — go out and play every game to get revenge on that championship by staying focused and doing all of the little things right.”
The two teams are on top of the al.com preseason rankings with the Knights taking the top spot. Edgewood had a chance to get a small taste of revenge during Saturday’s preseason tournament at Macon-East but the top-ranked team did not hold up its side of the bargain, falling in a first-round match.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats looked prepared to make another run at an unbeaten season, winning the tournament without dropping a set including the championship match over No. 3 Glenwood. Edgewood’s performances showed the rest of the state it is not going anywhere.
“The championship expectation will always be at Edgewood,” Josey said. “No matter what level we are on, my goal every year will be the championship. It’s important for them to have that in the back of their mind going into the season.”
Josey said she wants her team to play at 100 percent in every match as each opponent can help the Wildcats prepare for the postseason. The players know they still have a target on their backs because of the name on their jerseys and Josey wants them to embrace that.
“They do have a chip on their shoulder just by being Edgewood,” Josey said. “They should dominate matches but I think they handle it well. Even coaching against them when I was at Eastwood, they intimidated everybody just walking into the gym. Now that I’m on this side of it, I told them they have to find that again.”
Edgewood returns several players from last year’s squad including outside hitter Haylee Brown, right side Sydney Johnson and middle Katie Roberts. Sydney Brown is expected to see plenty of time off the bench on the front row along with Karlee Mainor, Alex Hodge and Stanhope Elmore transfer Harleigh Anderson.
Madison White returns as the top setter with Emma Weldon likely seeing more action at the position than she has in the past.
Josey will be looking to several players to fill in on the back row as defensive specialists including PCA transfer Brynlee Gontko. She will get plenty of help from returning players Lindsey Brown and Sadie Thompson.
“We have very good hitters and very good passers,” Josey said. “I think our greatest strength right now is playing as a team and working together. These girls really do get along, especially on the court. That’s a big advantage for us going into every game.”
The Wildcats will officially get the regular season started Thursday when they host Chambers before traveling to Glenwood for another tournament this weekend.