The Dawson County junior varsity and varsity volleyball teams gathered last week for their first banquet at the Dawson County Professional Development Center to celebrate the inaugural season of volleyball at DCHS.
Coaches, players and families took time to assess the season's ups and downs and laugh about what it's like to start a program from nothing during dinner on Oct. 25.
"We had eight volleyballs," Coach Tanya Porter said about the first week.
From the first moments the program was approved, Porter went to work studying the game and developing an affinity for the sport that many had hoped would make its way to Dawsonville.
"Nobody in here knew a whole lot about volleyball," she said.
Porter worked with Tina Brown who had previously been a middle school basketball coach, but was willing to try a new venture.
Brown laughed about the transition and what it meant to learn volleyball on a high school level versus what kids learn in a physical education class.
"What I teach is not the kind of volleyball we play," she said laughing.
Kristi Creegan became a lay coach for the season and volunteered a significant number of hours to help the program get going in its infancy.
As often happens with brand new programs, statistics were minimal at best and coaches chose a different method for honoring the players on the history-making team.
Coach Brown handed out awards to everyone on the JV team by way of a candy theme, a little tongue in cheek.
Harmony Evans received the Airhead Award. Anna Dempsey got the Spree Award for the serving sprees she went on regularly. Jill Westcott won the Smarties Award, Briana Ray the Gobstopper award, Daysi Gonzalez received the Crunch Award for coming through in a crunch, and Lindsey LeBaron got the Big League Chew Award for getting chewed out the most. Ashton Bonney received the Jolly Rancher Award for her good attitude. Rachel Swafford received the M&Ms Award for the way she would "move it move it" as the team setter. Emma Brown got the Now & Later Award because she spent time on both teams, playing now and later.
She also gave all of the team packets of dum-dums and starbursts because she said they were all dum-dums when they started and stars by the time they finished.
The JV team finished their first season at 12-12 overall.
Most programs that have not competed before begin with only a JV schedule. The Lady Tigers, however, had a full varsity team and schedule.
"For us to tackle a varsity schedule right off the bat, right out of the gate with only one or two girls who had ever played volleyball was quite ambitious," Porter said. "What you ladies accomplished in just 12 weeks, it is amazing."
The varsity team finished 3-31 on the season with a region win over Lumpkin County.
"There are victories that are celebrated in the midst of defeat," Porter said. "We experienced a lot of these. We learned to find the small victories."
Porter decided to have the girls vote on the awards among themselves for the varsity team.
Sportsmanship went to Emma Brown. Most improved went to Calli Watson. Emma French won the player's award. Best defensive player went to Lydia Watson and best offensive player went to Roxie Fricton.
Porter praised the efforts of Brittany Sayler as she was chosen team MVP.
"As a coach, it's hard to swallow when a player knows more than you," Porter said.
Overall, 11 players earned a varsity letter in this year's program: Chloe Bennett, Fricton, Marlie Townley, Kaylee Sticker, Kati Brady, Brown, Savannah Kennedy, Sayler, Calli Watson, French and Lydia Watson.
Porter thanked the girls for the efforts in being a part of getting the program started.
"You made a difference in this community," she said. "They are excited about having volleyball in Dawson County. They are excited about the potential and the future of this program."