Patriot volleyball looks to replace graduated stars, develop new ones

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Russell Dearing, Staff Writer

After losing five core senior players who led the varsity volleyball team to a Final Four appearance last season, head coach Andie Freedman was aware of the challenges facing the Patriots.

However, she is proud of how her players have competed thus far and lauds their growth and maturity. 

Success is not really about the outcome, but more the way we play the game. It’s that we compete every single time, for every single point, and success will come with that mentality.”

— Head Coach Andie Freedman

The Patriots fell to a 4-5 record after a heartbreaking fifth set in their Aug. 25 game against Oak Mountain; however, Freedman remains optimistic and is not discouraged by the results. 

The Eagles jumped to a hot start, winning the first set in the best of five, 25-21. Homewood recovered quickly and stormed back to take the second and third sets 25-23 and 25-18, respectively. However, Oak Mountain rallied, winning the fourth set 25-23, and rode their momentum to a 15-11 win in the fifth set for the match. 

Despite the loss, Homewood’s stars still showed out. Junior Mira McCool led the offensive charge for the Patriots, accounting for 19 kills and 14 digs. Following McCool’s performance, outside hitter Olivia Jackson (SR) tallied 17 kills and seven digs as well.

On the defensive end, senior captains Sydney Humes and Mary Przybysz chipped in with a team-high of 25 digs and 15 digs respectively, with Przybysz posting an additional 47 setting assists.

After losing talented graduates Olivia Brown, Halley Callaham, Lily Janas, Olivia Outman, and Mackenzie Yoakum, Homewood only has six varsity players returning from last season.

Przybysz admits that it has been a difficult transition, but she remains optimistic, stating that the team “has a lot of great energy and talent.”

Carson Jarmon (JR) serving (photo by Frank Long)

Freedman shares this sentiment, acknowledging the youth of her players and welcoming the challenge and opportunity. 

“We are a young team,” she explains, including that she is proud of how the girls are “growing into themselves on the court.” She credits the preseason practices specifically, noting that she “saw a lot of growth over the summer” and is delighted that they “helped get some of those growing pains out early.”

Olivia Jackson (SR) and Sydney Humes (SR) warming up (photo by Frank Long)

Freedman also attributes this early growth to their rigorous scheduling. “Our strategy is just to schedule tough,” she explains, “so we can get ready to compete against hard-hitting teams and prepare us for the postseason.” Homewood has already faced two 7A teams thus far in Hoover and Spain Park and managed to take down the Bucs 2 sets to 1 on Aug. 20.

In terms of reaching the postseason, the road looks a little clearer for the Patriots than in recent years. Due to the area reclassification during the offseason, the Patriots are no longer accompanied by two of the consistently top five 6A teams, Chelsea and Mountain Brook. 

Instead, they face three new opponents: Arab, Jackson-Olin, and Minor, none of which Homewood has faced in years past. “We are obviously going to respect every opponent,” Freedman said, emphasizing that as long as her team limits their mistakes and keeps errors to a minimum, their chances of success look good this year.

Freedman defines this success uniquely, claiming it is more than just winning a championship. Above everything else, Freedman just hopes to continue stepping up her team’s level of play and challenging them to be their best. 

The Patriots are back in action in a home match against Northridge Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6:30 pm.