Southern Wayne’s volleyball team is one of three Saints’ fall teams with new leadership. Coming off a 6-15 record last season, Scarlett Joyner will take over for Jamie Williams, who is still on the coaching staff as an assistant. Teaming up, both coaches have chosen to usher in an integrity-based culture set to benefit their players on and off of the court.
Joyner set the tone from day one and informed her players of the standard that will be upheld.
“We told them that we hold our girls to high standards and the role of a coach is more than making sure they understand the technical aspects of the sport,” Joyner said. “After many talks about the team, coach Williams and I have very similar mindsets that our role is to foster an environment where the girls uphold standards that would be expected of them by future employers and as citizens in their community. I have taught in a lot of different school systems across North Carolina and have seen coaches sacrifice integrity for the sake of keeping a mediocre student with a foul attitude on the team simply because of their raw talent for the sake of winning. Not here. We are invested in the student-athlete as a whole and we believe in setting the standard other teams should live by.”
Last year, the Saints struggled with making the right play, which came back to cost them more times than one. In a tough conference like the Eastern Carolina 3A/4A, each matchup is going to be difficult and execution is key. Joyner has pointed out those weaknesses, but said she is proud of the way they have answered the challenges she has presented.
“Our team has some powerful hitters. In the past, we have not been able to showcase just how much skill our girls have due to an inability to set the play up, which all boils down to the pass. So, throughout summer workouts, and now, we have been emphasizing ball control and abilities,” Joyner said. “We have reiterated, over and over, how crucial it is to get the pass to the setter rather than running her ragged across the court. Part of the inability to give a good pass has been lack of footwork, so every day we make sure to work on both. That being said, at this point, they have pretty much done every ball control drill known to man.
“It has been fun introducing some of these new drills to the girls. When you’re explaining a new dig-and-roll passing drill and seeing their eyes get as big as saucers, it is pretty amusing. I have been so proud of them, though, because no matter how complex the introduced drill has been they have put 100% into every new drill and committed themselves to improve.”
Joyner has slimmed down the roster in the Saints’ volleyball program in her short tenure. Last season, the junior varsity team had 18 players and, this year, they will have only 10. The varsity goes from 10 last season to nine this season.
Some teams have a mantra, “strength in numbers,” but Joyner is convinced that with a smaller program, the development will increase.
“Keeping a smaller squad has been essential to their exponential growth as a player because improvement comes in part from the maximum amount of touches on a ball during practice,” she said. “That being said, our strengths are our adaptability and our support systems.”
Joyner also hasn’t declared any leaders yet for the Saints saying, “The leaders of our team are going to be our scholars who perform on and off the court. We believe strongly in ‘you are a student first and an athlete second’ and we are very proud of the high standards our girls uphold.”
The Saints will kick off the season on Wednesday and Thursday with matches at Southern Wayne. The Lady Saints will host Beddingfield on Wednesday in a scrimmage and Goldsboro on Thursday for an endowment match. Wednesday’s match will begin at 4 p.m. and Thursday’s will begin at 5 p.m.