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Johnsonville High School

Johnsonville girls end season in Lower State finals

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Johnsonville—For years as a Class A program, the Johnsonville volleyball team found itself playing for Lower State and state titles. They hadn’t had the same sort of success at the AA level until this year.

The Flashes went 12-0 in conference play, earning the Region 7-AA championship, and won their first three playoff matches. Unfortunately, they dropped a five-setter to Academic Magnet (25-23, 22-25, 21-25, 25-22, 5-15) with a berth in the state finals on the line to finish the season 18-5 overall.

“This group was always learning from the girls ahead of them, always having to look up to someone else. This year, they’ve all had to step up and be scorers. They’re aggressive and always looking for spots to place the ball on the court. They work really hard when they’re out there. They’re a bunch of athletes in other sports, so when they all come together they make a great team,” head coach Nell Alston said.

Johnsonville only had three seniors on its roster this fall, but one of those players will leave a huge void next season. Hitter Mya Dollard was the Region Player of the Year and selected to the North-South all-star game.

“This child has really grown the past two years. She used to be really quiet and now she’s playing outside of her box. She’s played like I expected her to play,” Alston said.

Setter Jada Parsons and libero Hannah Squires are the other two starters departing, with Squires joining Dollard at the North-South game.

“Jada does exactly what I tell her to do and always gets the job done. Hannah plays great defense on the back row,” Alston said.

Two juniors return next season, hoping to take a more prominent role. Maelyn Thompson was a setter/outside hitter while Kirby Blakely was in the middle and on the outside.

“When you think a ball is going to drop on the court, Maelyn is there. She’s determined and has the heart to win, and she shows that every minute of practice and in games. Kirby is strong. She’s got a very hard serve and a good swing,” Alston said.

The rest of the team was made up of freshmen, including starting hitter Nyasia Graham and defensive specialist Sophie Thompson. Outside hitter Taniya Timmons and defensive specialist Kailyn Hooks saw plenty of action in reserve roles as well.

Stephanie Squires, Laney Evans, Terianna Nesmith and Jada Cox will also be back next season.

“I’ve had these freshmen since their seventh-grade year. It’s good when you get them so young because they can watch the older girls and catch on to what you’re doing. They’re learning the speed of the game quicker at the middle school level,” Alston said.

With the majority of the team staying together for the next several years, there is plenty of optimism for the Flashes. Now it will just come down to developing and cultivating that talent.

“We may have some ups and downs, but the girls that are here will still play hard and work hard at all times. We say we’re a family at the beginning and end of every practice, and they’re growing together. They’re like sisters on the court. The future looks good here at Johnsonville,” Alston said.

In other news, the Johnsonville football team wrapped up the regular season with a 3-7 (1-5) record and came up just short of making the playoffs. Offensively, they were led by running back Octavius Williams (466 yards, 2 TD) while Sammy Black and Branden Coles each tallied over 100 tackles on defense.

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