“I didn’t want to tell them, I didn’t want them to know,” says Lindsay Herrin about her team’s number one state ranking following a quick 10-0 start to the season, the second straight year with a start like that. Most coaches can echo her sentiments, as players are often better off not knowing about rankings, records, and stats.
“I didn’t want it to be any added pressure for them,” says Herrin. “At the same time, that was something we needed to celebrate. They were praised for it…they should be very proud of that.”
For Habersham Central, whose record now stands at a flawless 14-0 overall and 2-0 in Region 8-AAAAAA, the pressure this time around isn’t getting to them.
“We do try to stay humble,” says senior middle hitter Ansley Hendrix. “We usually try to take it one game at a time, one set at a time. We’re not thinking ahead, but we’re trying to win in that moment.”
The Lady Raiders, despite more wins than when they were ranked at the top, are now hovering around 7th and 8th in various polls due to a new “strength of schedule” score given to different teams in the classification. The team features a solid senior group of seven that provide plenty of experience in both success and shortcomings to make this season an unforgettable one.
“It’s very surreal. I have told this group of girls for awhile now that they have the chance to make history and leave an outstanding legacy,” says Herrin. “They’ve definitely poured the foundation, we just want to keep building.”
The seven seniors are surrounded by a mix of talent – two juniors, two sophomores, and freshman phenom Madeline Koshuta, the latter of which Hendrix and senior Alexandra Shalikashvili rave about. To Herrin’s point, this senior class is leaving a lasting imprint for the underclassmen. It helps that the culture among the girls contains very little drama, if any.
“It’s so great,” says Shalikashvili of the makeup of the team. “We’re just such a team, and we did a lot of team bonding this summer, and we’re even closer than last year.”
This may be Habersham’s best team yet, which is saying a lot. Since Herrin’s arrival in 2011, the Lady Raiders program has featured some elite players and made state 3 times in 8 seasons, winning 174 games in the process. Previous to this season, 2016 stands as perhaps the best for the program, as the Lady Raiders went 26-9, finishing as region runner-up, and advanced to the Sweet 16 while attaining a #9-state ranking.
The Lady Raiders have dominated in 2019 to the tune of 30-2 in terms of set wins-losses. That’s unheard of. They’ll put their record and status on the line Thursday with a tri-match against Dawson County and White County next.
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