Volleyball Preview 2022: Tallulah Falls
Tallulah Falls’ most consistent program in terms of postseason success has been volleyball. The Lady Indians have made the state tournament in seven straight seasons, and have been ranked inside the top-10 in the state in three different seasons. That has included three total and now back-to-back Sweet 16 runs under coach Matt Heyl.
Head Coach: Matt Heyl, 5th season
2021 Record: 23-12; State Sweet 16; Region 8-A Public Runner-Up
Coming off the program’s fifth 20-win season in seven years, the Lady Indians will once again retool the roster after seeing a solid nucleus graduate, including a pair who went on to play collegiately. An all-new Region 8-A Division-I will make for a different setup as well for the team.
“These ladies have a very high ceiling,” states Heyl. “The beginning of the season may be a little rocky as we have not had some key players with us for the summer training. Elsa and Sofia will only have two days of practice before our first match. Once we get rolling and our chemistry builds, this team will give a lot of trouble to a lot of teams this season. The key to our success is reaching that ceiling and the only way to achieve that is to unify around the key thought of hard work. If every player buys in to work hard and be the best version of themselves that they can for the good of the team then we will be GREAT.”
Key Departures: Allie Dalton, Barrett Whitener, Evette Corwin, Alba Romanos Gracia, Nancy Fisher
A senior class of seven rolls off the roster. Romanos goes on to play college in both beach and indoor volleyball, while Fisher is off to play at the next level also. The program’s captain in Whitener and all-time assists leader in Dalton will be big gaps to fill, as well as Corwin, who contributed in many ways.
Key Returning Players: Sarah Jennings, Addy McCoy, Kitty Rodenas, Julianne Shirley, Sofia Rueda, Elsa Sanchez
Good for Tallulah Falls in having Jennings back. She’ll leave as one of the top players in school history. With yet another big season, she’ll more than likely hold most school records. She’s two-time All-Region, so this should be another monster year for her. Rodenas did a great job last season, and will have her time to shine. Julianne Shirley showed plenty of promise and would be in the category of an ‘up-and-comer’, and McCoy has already emerged last season as a team leader as well. There are others who need to step up in a huge way to keep the expectations high.
“Sarah will be looked at to lead the team in many ways,” states Heyl. “She will lead vocally, but also with her skill. We expect to see her leading in most major categories, including kills, digs, serving, and serve receive.”
Jennings will have plenty of support with a few others who have great experience at the varsity level in Addy McCoy, Kitty Rodenas, and Julianne Shirley.
“Addy, with her off-season dedication, will be much improved from last year,” adds Heyl. “We expect to go to her a lot in offense, and we’ll see her leading in serving as well. Addy is also a rising leader on the team. Kitty will be looked at to fill the big shoes of Allie Dalton at the setting position. She also brings a great serve to the starting line up. She will also be one of our senior leaders who leads with a great positive attitude, always encouraging her team. Julianne, one of our most athletic players should become a force to be reckoned with. I have full confidence that she will find a way to raise her skill to the level of her athleticism.”
Two others who are expected to make a jump this year as ‘up and coming’ players are Elsa Sanchez and Sofia Rueda, both seniors who played on JV last season.
“Those are two other players to watch,” says Heyl of Sanchez and Rueda. “Elsa brings a great serve, good passing, solid defense, and extra offense. Sofia is one of our best athletes, and if her hitting and blocking become consistent, she will help raise our team to the next level. The two ladies are also two of our best passers and servers. If they play up to their potential and mix well with the rest of the team, we will have a good chance for a very successful season.”
Strength & Area of Focus
Strength: Consistency. This group has played together for awhile, and while some will be featured more than they have in the past, top to bottom the roster has great consistency. That speaks on the team’s chemistry and coaching.
Focus: Filling the void at setter, where Dalton was tremendous. Having someone else take the pressure off of Jennings as well, as she and McCoy will need others to be big at the net.