Freshman Nia Thomas is expected to give Jonesboro a lot of help this season as the Cardinals push for another playoff berth. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — As Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman sees it, this could be a typical season for his volleyball team.
And that is usually a good thing.
If the start of the season is any indication, then a state berth and beyond is possible in the Cardinals’ future.
Jonesboro has reached the postseason the last 13 years under Maehlman’s direction, and won 12 of the last 13 county championships.
Maehlman’s feeling of a “typical” season was re-enforced with the team’s slow start, which is usually how most seasons have started at Jonesboro.
“This is a lot like the other years we have had over here,” Maehlman said. “Right now, we can play with some of the good teams, but we can’t win against the better ones yet because we can’t pass or serve like the other teams. We just have to gain some confidence in playing together.”
Jonesboro only has two players back from last year, but they are two of the most important players on the team.
Back for her senior season is last year’s Clayton News Daily Player of the Year Michaelle Smith, who is also a standout basketball player. Vickie Sutton, a junior, is also back. Smith plays the outside hitter position while Sutton is the setter.
“It is good we have someone back at the setter position that has experience,” Maehlman said. “Mike is the player of the year, so that definitely helps. If you are going to only have two players back, then they are the best two to have. All our pieces have to step up and play their part. I’m a little surprised at how well we have played so far.”
The competition this season in Area 4-AAAA will be a little different with four DeKalb County schools, Atlanta’s Grady, and county rival Mount Zion compiling the area.
But Jonesboro will still play a challenging non-area schedule against some of the top teams in the state regardless of classification.
The county tournament will be Oct. 4 with the area tournament a week later. Both will be at Jonesboro.
In addition to Sutton and Smith, Maehlman is high on two freshmen. Nia Thomas comes over from Rex Mill Middle while Jaelyn Franklin played last season at Kendrick. Thomas’ older sister, Jasmine, plays for Albany State.
Aaliyah Lowe comes over from Our Lady of Mercy for her senior year. Maehlman also points out that another senior Janell Corbet and juniors Latrich Rynolds and Audrey Alford will be counted on for help this season.
Sutton said this team could shape up to be a contender if everyone plays their part.
“I think we can be real good,” Sutton said. “This team has a lot of heart, and they are willing to learn.”
Sutton and Smith will be looked to for their leadership.
“This is my senior year, so a lot of the girls are looking up to me,” Smith said. “I have to lead them on and off the court. I think we have a chance to have a good year.”
Maehlman says about six of his players play year-round club volleyball, which should speed up the learning process. He also pointed out that new assistant coach Ella Williams has been a big addition to his staff.
“She helps with a lot of the finer details,” Maehlman said. “It has really been amazing. She brings another aspect to the game for us. She is a real stickler for details.”