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Prep volleyball: St. Albans program is on the rise

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A man of many hats returns to the helm of a program he once previously directed as Scott James looks to improve the St. Albans volleyball program this season.

James, the school's girls basketball and track coach, former golf coach and athletic trainer to the football team, has taken the reins of the volleyball program for the second time in his coaching career.

James previously coached his daughter, Meagan James, one season at McKinley Middle School and four years at SA, with two as a head coach nearly a decade ago. Now, he's back to coach his other daughter, junior Maura James.

"The history of St. Albans volleyball hasn't been very strong," James said. "They've been hovering around .500 the last couple years, but this is a team that we feel can be above .500 and really be a contender by the end of the season, and we're young, too."

With plenty of young talent in position, including Maura James, the Red Dragons will look to improve upon the program's struggles in recent years.

"I think we're going to be an all-around good team," James said. "We're going to have to play good offense and great defense for us to achieve our potential."

Talent extends throughout the roster and across the floor, James said. Maura James returns as a second-team all-conference and honorable mention all-state setter. A transfer from Nebraska, 5-foot-11 senior Kasie Bowman, will look to dominate the middle, while junior Kalie Berry works as an outside hitter.

"We've got some outside hitters, we've got middle hitters, we've got two freshmen, Rachel Burnsworth and Braley Brown, that are basically back row players and they're sharing time at the libero and they've done a tremendous job so far," he said.

"You throw everything together and the team chemistry's good."

During a quad match Thursday, the Red Dragons defeated Buffalo in two games, lost two to Ravenswood and fell in three sets to Huntington.

 James said the greatest takeaway from the match came in the team's winning set versus the Highlanders.

"We got beat the first game and we were down, I think it was 10 or 11 points in the second game and I called timeout," James said. "I challenged them and talked to them about playing hard with heart and desire and giving everything you got.

"We came back and won that game 34-32, so I saw a lot of fight in the team. Even though we ended up getting beat the third game, a lot of positive came out of that and I think the team's belief level went up, realizing they can compete with some of the stronger teams."

Consistency in play will prove the difference for the Red Dragons this season, James added.

"If we come to fight and battle like we did that second game against Huntington being 10 or 11 down and came back and won that match the way 34-32, that's the biggest thing we have to do," he said. "We have to do that and be consistent in our play. Right now, we're up then we're down. The other night at times we looked really good, but at other times we looked really bad.

"We've got to get to the point to where we're consistent and one of the big keys is to limit our unforced errors and make other teams earn their points, do not give points away."

One thing, James said, that hasn't yet wavered is the team's desire.

"We've got girls who are hungry," he said. "They come to work every day and our goal is to get better every day in practice or every day we have a match. To this point we've achieved that goal most of the time and we just look forward to the future with volleyball."

St. Albans next plays host to a quad match with South Charleston, Riverside and Logan beginning 6 p.m. Thursday.



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