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16-0. 19-0. 16-4.
These were the regular-season records of St. Dominic Elementary’s sixth grade, seventh grade and eighth grade (in order) volleyball teams this year.
But for head coach Denita Simms, those are not the numbers that most impress her.
That singular number would be 22.
As in, there were only 22 players spread out between the three squads.
“We had some pretty good seasons for such a small school like ours,” Simms said, “but within that small group, there were just a lot of really good, smart, athletic girls to work with. This was a pretty outstanding group.”
Simms believes that having a small collection of players is, in part, one of the main reasons her teams were so successful this season.
To her, being able to play together so often has led to better communication and a more keen understanding of what the other players on the team are going to do.
“I think they work so well together because — it’s not only because they play volleyball together — they play a lot of different sports all together,” Simms said. “The longer you play together, the more consistent you get. That’s what we have that some of the other schools don’t have. We’ve got a real close, tight-knit group.”
Another benefit the team has?
A volleyball developmental program that was put into place “a few years ago,” according to
Simms, that focuses on teaching third-, fourth- and fifth-graders the fundamentals needed to thrive in the sports.
“I think the longer a player plays, the more comfortable they get, and they can just keep improving from there,” Simms said.
With this program in place, St. Dominic will look to keep building on their success in volleyball in the future. They even had four fifth-graders move up to play for the team this year.
In fact, they’ve been testing out there talent level since the beginning of the season. In their first game of the year, the teams were playing against Taylor County, which doesn’t have a sixth-grade team. Simms asked Taylor’s coach if her sixth-grade team could play their seventh-grade team, just to gauge where they were at.
Her team won in two games.
It wasn’t until after the contest that she told her girls that they had just beaten a team a grade above them.
“We kind of knew how good we were, but that was when we knew we had a pretty tough little team,” Simms said.
And when St. Dominic played Taylor again, her request to play again was denied.
Simm’s secret was, well, no longer a secret.
St. Dominic volleyball is here to stay.