GAYLESVILLE – Jeanne Hatmaker found out the second week of June she was going to be the new head varsity volleyball coach at Gaylesville. It’s not the first time she’s been tasked with molding a program.
Hatmaker, a former Cherokee County High School and Gadsden State setter, coached volleyball for 12 years in Georgia. She coached everything from junior varsity to varsity, including starting the volleyball program at South Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga.
“It’s been a while since I’ve coached,” Hatmaker said. “I was a little rusty when I started (at Gaylesville). When I first found out I was going to be coaching again, I started trying to set the ball a little bit because I was a setter. I played with the girls that first week of open gym and I couldn’t move for like three days.”
Hatmaker knew she was already behind coming in at a late date to Gaylesville. Those open gyms led up to a team camp July 18-19. Hatmaker and the Lady Trojans learned a lot about each other at that camp, and have learned even more since then.
“The first day (of camp) was a little tough for them. The second day they came in ready,” Hatmaker said. “When school started, we began to talk about who we were going to put where. I don’t want to do the same thing they did last year. I wanted to see what I need to see and then make the decision.
“One thing that’s different this year is I asked for their input. What worked last year? What didn’t? What do you want to try? We went through a series of let’s try this and see how it works. We mapped out our offense. That’s what last week was about, and just they got excited. That was great to see.”
Another thing that was great for Hatmaker to see from the Lady Trojans was improved passing and better serve placement through the course of the past few weeks.
“The girls have worked with their hands,” she said. “A lot of them couldn’t set last year. I think it’s important that everybody be able to use their hands. We also worked on serve placement, so they’ve gotten better at that. They’re not just tossing the ball, swinging and praying.
“We’ve been able to break some bad habits. Once they started seeing results from what we were having them do, like staying low to pass the ball. One of our hardest habits to break was stand up while passing. We just kept making them get low. We kept doing these drills, and then their passing started improving. They were like ‘Oh really. It does work.’ I think once they started seeing results they became better players and more excited about it. I’m anxious to see how they do their first match, then we’ll know where we need to go.”
There are only nine players on this season’s Lady Trojan varsity roster, including a pair of seniors in right side hitters Andreah Calvert and Delaney Coker.
“Andreah is our captain. She’s a take charge kind of person,” Hatmaker said. “When something needs to be done, she’s stepping up and saying ‘Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.’ She has really been amazing at that. She is a right side hitter, but she can also set. She can also hit middle. She can pass the ball.
“My other senior is Delaney Coker. She is a right side hitter, but she’s also one of our strongest passers.”
Gaylesville also has a pair of juniors in setters in Gabby West and Emma Givens. Junior Sydney Smith, sophomore Aubrie Peek and eighth grader Logan Goza are middle hitters. Juniors Alyssa Calvert and Jayden Dobbins are outside hitters.
Hatmaker said Smith’s presence is “awesome on the net”, noting she has a great serve and can pass the ball well. Regarding Goza, Hatmaker said the Lady Trojans are working on her jumping ability.
“She’s one of those that’s really tall and doesn’t have to, but if she would she’d be unstoppable. She’s going to float back and forth for us (from JV to varsity).
Hatmaker noted Alyssa Calvert played mostly on the junior varsity squad last season but plans to utilize her jumping, passing and hitting abilities.
“We’re working on her setting a little bit, but she can serve. She’s really risen to the challenge,” Hatmaker said.
Regarding Dobbins, who is currently injured, Hatmaker notes she has “a fierce serve and five years of experience.”
“She stays calm in the storm,” Hatmaker said. “We hope she is cleared and well soon.”
Assisting Hatmaker as a coach on the varsity, as well as coaching the Lady Trojan junior varsity, is 2017 Gaylesville graduate Lacey Abernathy.
“She’s a young one, but she played here. She’s going to help with softball too,” Hatmaker said. “She’s jumped in with both feet.”
Gaylesville competes in Class 1A, Area 12 along with Spring Garden, Cedar Bluff, Coosa Christian and Jacksonville Christian.
“Volleyball in this area has always been top notch,” Hatmaker said. “They’ve all got great coaches. They’ve got players who are probably more experienced than mine, but I’ve got some girls who have heart this year. I just want them to learn to have fun and be competitive.”