SHENANADOAH JUNCTION – The six seniors on this year’s Jefferson volleyball team share more than just their skills on the court.
This core group of Cougar athletes have formed a bond, forged out of a friendship going as far back as childhood. They’re about as close as if they were actually sisters.
This will be the final year of high school volleyball for seniors Macie Chrisman, Sophie Beddingfield, Payton Derrick, Sierra Knott, Kyleigh Bane and Meadow Miller. This sixsome wants to go out knowing they’ve been part of a resurgence of Jefferson’s volleyball program.
“We’ve been together for about as long as I can remember,” Chrisman, an outside hitter, said. “We’ve had a lot of good times together over the years.”
Beddingfield is a setter. Her job is to move the ball around the Jefferson side of the court, making sure a player on the front line is in good position to make a strong return across the net, setting up a kill (spike) which cannot be blocked or return.
Like her teammates, Beddingfield had to remain patient during the time schools were closed last spring and part of the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At times, it was frustrating, not being able to do any kind of workouts.
The six seniors stayed in touch during the height of the pandemic. Most tried to work out at home when they could.
Still, they missed being together, so when some restrictions were relaxed to the point where team members were allowed to begin pre-season conditioning, the seniors, as well as other team members, were ready to go.
That conditioning, which took place over a two-month period in the summer, had the players ready to go when official practices began two weeks before schools opened.
Miller has been playing some form of volleyball since fifth grade. While playing with the Hub City volleyball club of Hagerstown, she learned additional skills over the years.
Knott has returned to playing volleyball for Jefferson after a stint as a swimmer. She has experience, playing club travel volleyball. She is a middle hitter, another key position. That position’s responsibilities includes reading the opponent’s hitters to set up blocks, attacking the ball on offense and scoring points.
Sometimes, a middle hitter acts as a decoy on offense, creating misdirection to confuse an opponent. Knott, as well as her teammates, knows keeping the ball moving quickly gives an opponent less of an opportunity to return a volley.
While it may be true not all six seniors may have played volleyball together all four years in high school, their long-term friendships speak volumes. To be sure, one thing they all can agree on, a new coaching style and philosophy has made the entire team, not just the seniors, better over the past two years.
Jim de Nobel, the second-year head coach at Jefferson, brings a lot of experience to the table. He formerly served as head volleyball coach at Urbana and Linganore High Schools in nearby Frederick County, Maryland.
De Nobel helped develop those programs into successful ones. So when word got out he was going to take over the Cougars’ volleyball program two years ago, the returning players were hoping the team’s fortunes would change.
Jefferson, heading into last Thursday’s home match with Spring Mills, has won five matches after an 0-2 start.
“We’ve improved so much over the last two years,” Bane said. “There’s better communication among the team members, not as much drama. Coach de Nobel said he saw a lot of potential in us before he took the job.”
Having such a close-knit group of seniors also lends itself to providing leadership to the underclassmen on the team. They don’t hesitate to share their knowledge and experience with the younger players.
With such a dedicated group of seniors helping lead the way, as sectional playoffs approach in a few weeks, better things lie ahead for the Cougars.