Gallery by Brad Davis
The 2020 season was an unusual one for the Greater Beckley Christian volleyball team.
However, unlike many other schools, the uncharacteristic season was not COVID related.
“We dodged a bullet last year. We didn’t have any cancellations and our schedule went off as good as it could,” Greater Beckley head coach Tracie Fisher said.
The unusual part for the Crusaders came in the fact that it was the first time in Fisher’s tenure that her team didn’t make a trip to the state tournament.
“It was a surprise we didn’t make it and we were equally surprised. We had some inner turmoil on the team and there was just a mental breakdown. The girls were tired at the end of the season,” Fisher said.
“I think the expectations and the weight of the world seemed to be on top of them and we just caved in at the very end.”
Normally a powerhouse at the West Virginia Christian Athletic Tournament, Great Beckley stumbled there also.
“Once we didn’t win that, it was like we got down so bad mentally. It was almost like we gave up when things didn’t go our direction,” Fisher said. “We had not had that kind of adversity before because we had been so successful for such a long time. It was a learning experience for the girls that have come back this year.”
While Fisher was anxious to get the new season started, she wasn’t even sure if there would even be a season this year at Greater Beckley.
“We only had one or two girls show up for the first day of practice. I was a little nervous,” Fisher admitted. “Then I had some girls call and say they were playing; they were just out of town. The girls did a good job going to their classmates and recruiting, just to get some numbers. A lot of these girls have not played before. It is an interesting feel because the girls didn’t know how to pass, serve or anything.”
With such an odd mixture of talent and players that are starting from scratch, one would think Fisher would be in panic mode.
Fisher is far from being in a panic.
“It has been really good because their attitudes are great. They want to learn, and they are coachable. They bring a great attitude to our base of returning players,” Fisher said. “To have it back where they are just having fun playing the game of volleyball is a big deal. I think we may have lost that with the expectations that you have to be good, and you have to win. Of course, we want to win and be successful, but it can be burdensome.”
Three key seniors return to lead Great Beckley including an all-state setter that Fisher is very familiar with, her daughter Jenna Fisher.
I have come up through the ranks with her. This year is a little emotional and bittersweet,” Fisher said. “Jenna is the heart and soul of the team and is always encouraging her teammates. She has been a spiritual leader as well and helps keep them grounded.”
Joining Jenna as senior leaders on the floor will be right-side hitter Emma Grace Holstein and outside hitter Keira O’Neal.
“The three seniors have played together since sixth grade and they share a common goal of bringing this team together,” Fisher said. “Their leadership is well respected by the other girls.”
Juniors Jada Wilcox and Shayla Martin saw limited time last year but do return with some varsity experience.
Jess Arrington is another junior that joined the team late last year. However, she did not see varsity action. Fisher is hoping Arrington will blossom into a strong presence at the net.
“Then I have a couple of freshmen, Catelyn Hodge and Bri Fitzgerald along with junior Kate Lowe,” Fisher said. “Kate is coming in from being homeschooled. This is her first high school sports activity, so we are glad to have her. She is very willing to learn.”
Although the Crusaders may be a little rough around the edges, Fisher likes what she sees so far on the floor.
“We have all the pieces we need. We are very athletic and the girls that have returned have good volleyball skills. They are very good fundamentally, which is what we emphasize here. Their mental and social chemistry is great,” Fisher said. “On the court we are still working to figure out where we need to be. It will take us a few games into the season to work out the chemistry on the court and how to trust each other. I don’t think it will take long.”
Can this band of Crusaders make a return to the state tournament? Fisher thinks her team definitely can make the big dance in Charleston.
“The five returning players know they are capable, and they talk about that as a goal. It will take baby steps to get there,” Fisher said. “They do have to set that goal for themselves, otherwise why are you here. However, they have not set that as a high expectation. They want to have fun and enjoy the season.”