Jeff Hurndon Photography
Union Grove senior Camille Cameron is one of the top outside hitters in the state, averaging 2.8 kills a game.
Normally, because they didn’t have a match, the Union Grove volleyball team would’ve been practicing Wednesday. But coach Laurie Sponsler gave the Wolverines the day off. Seems there’s some kind of bug going around.
“Pretty much everybody’s gotten it — they’re either in the middle of getting, getting over it or just now getting it,” Sponsler said.
Infirmity is one of the few things that has slowed the Wolverines this season. Since losing their opening match to powerhouse rival Jonesboro on Aug. 23, the Wolverines have run the table — nine matches in a row — as they prepare for the Fayette Sweet 16 tournament that begins Saturday at Fayette County High School.
Even sick, there aren’t many teams better than the Wolverines. They won two matches Tuesday against Mundy’s Mill and Lovejoy, losing only one of five sets.
When healthy, who knows how good they can be? Even after losing six seniors off last year’s 40-15 team that reached the first round of the state playoffs, the Wolverines have reloaded and four new seniors have filled the leadership void — outside hitter Camille Cameron, Anna Morgan, Taylor Cole and Emily Carlisle.
The Sweet 16 tournament will be a test because it will include three local teams from the Class AAAA top 10 — No. 2 Whitewater, No. 4 McIntosh and No. 8 Starr’s Mill. Sandy Creek is No. 2 in Class AAA, has twice beaten Starr’s Mill, and will be there, too. Eagle’s Landing Christian, No. 4 in Class AA/A, is in the field.
The Wolverines have gone as their serves have carried them.
“I think our service consistency gives us a little bit of an edge,” Sponsler said. “Generally, our passing is pretty good and we have some strong hitters.”
Cameron is among the leading outside hitters in the state, averaging 2.8 kills a game. She also has 19 aces. Jessie Swaney, a sophomore, is an up-and-comer as well.
Overall, the Wolverines have blended into a cohesive unit. Sponsler has taken note of “their ability to work together” and cites that as one of the reasons for their recent hot streak.
“We’re jelling a little bit now,” Sponsler said.
The coach is hoping the Wolverines will qualify once again for the state playoffs by finishing among the top four in Area 4-AAAA, which seems likely. But for now, they look only as far ahead as the Sweet 16 tournament.
If they can just get healthy in time for that, their hot streak might continue.
Union Grove Wolverines
Coach: Laurie Sponsler
Key losses: Kasey Wilson, Deborah Versulien, Ashton Adams, Corinne White, Ally Holland and Kendel Betsa.
Others to watch: Camille Cameron, Emily Carlisle, Taylor Cole, Anna Morgan and Jessie Swaney
Outlook: The Wolverines should make the state playoffs again this year, given their history of success (they are 212-82 since going 9-14 in their inaugural 2004 season)