Belgreen reflects on successful volleyball season
Head Coach Teresa Whitten was told, in her second year as coach in volleyball and first Super Regional appearance, to expect it to take “at least ten years to build a championship team” – this coming from another head coach who had been coaching for several years and knew the ins and outs of building a program. Whitten, completing her fifth year in October, is well on her way to achieving such a goal within that 10-year mark.
The Lady Bulldogs began the season in the summer with playdates, practices and several role changes. Hitters, setters, passers and servers were all subject to being responsible for learning and performing new tasks. It was a time for Whitten to reflect on her team and what was strong, what was lacking, what could remain and what needed to be changed. The season came, and her Lady Bulldogs put to action the hard work and changed roles to the test. Beating a very good, and soon-to-be state ranked, Shoals Christian would be the girls’ first “first” of the record-setting year for Belgreen.
- First team to beat 3A competition
- First team to be nominated for the Top Ten teams in Alabama
- First team with a winning record (16-14)
- First team to beat a ranked opponent
- First team to be a “Sweet Sixteen” qualifier
- First team to have a player nominated, and the winner, of AL.com’s “North Alabama Volleyball Player of the Week” honor
- First team to achieve the most wins in a single season
The team experienced its fair share of ups and downs. Winning area was a goal that was set by each player in the preseason, and that would be a goal that would not be achieved by this year’s varsity team. Area opponent and state ranked Phillips would defeat the Bulldogs in each contest they faced the Lady Bears. They experienced close and heart-breaking losses to Waterloo, Central, out-of-state contender Tishimingo County and 4A competition Rogers.
At Super Regionals, the Bulldogs fell short in their opening set against the Berry High School Lady Wildcats. After losing that set 14-25, the ladies shook off the nerves of the atmosphere – which some had never experienced before – and came in strong in the following three sets, winning 25-22 / 25-20 / and 25-23.
Moments after winning the 4th set against Area 9 winner Berry, Whitten heard one of her players utter a very strong sentiment possibly felt by every player, fan and parent present at this year’s Super Regional Tournament: “This is the best feeling ever!” “This was such an accurate statement,” Whitten said. “I am so proud of the girls in all they have accomplished this year. We had so many ‘firsts,’ which sets the expectations for next year even higher. A lot of times, teams reach goals like we have but are loaded with seniors who start and play the whole match. At one time, we had four freshmen and two sophomores on the court playing and holding their own against the North Regional Champions, Decatur Heritage. This is exciting because I know that the girls will work to go even further next year. We have so much talent and because the girls are willing to listen and to trust what I tell them, our future is really bright.”
Whitten said she is proud of how her players performed at this year’s Super Regional tournament. Senior Ana Castillo led the team in kills with 19, and fellow senior Shellie Barber had 28 digs. Katie Dempsey, freshman, had 15 kills, 11 digs, 2 blocks and six aces. Freshman Autumn Bragwell had four kills, 14 digs, 31 assists and three aces. Freshman Bailey Wood who had completed the JV season and then moved up to varsity, had 22 digs. Two sophomores, Kaycee Wilson and Camie Terrell, helped the team defensively, and several other players really stepped up and helped the team as well.
“We are losing four seniors, who were sad as we lost to Decatur Heritage, but they set the bar really high for the years to follow and left a legacy for girls to follow in the years to come,” Whitten said. “I would like to say a special thanks to all our fans for their support this year, the ones who helped with stats, my assistant who keeps me calm and my husband and son who have to endure my obsessive volleyball disorder.”