LaFayette volleyball preview

Published 11:21 am Wednesday, August 16, 2023

LaFayette’s volleyball team has seen the program grow this offseason. Now, the Bulldogs hope to see that success translate on the court. 

LaFayette will only have a few seniors going into the season. The team’s leader will undoubtedly be Toniya Collier. 

“Toniya Collier is our go to girl,” Head Coach Chase Lewis said. “We’ve struggled traditionally as far as games and trying to win, but Toniya is definitely our little bit of everything. She has the most experience of anybody on the team. We will be pushing for her to actually be an All-State player this year. We look forward to trying to get her signed to a college somewhere for volleyball as well.” 

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Collier is not just a gifted athlete, she is also one of the best leaders at LaFayette High School. Last season, Collier was recognized as the MVP for basketball, track and volleyball. 

“She’s just one of the best leaders in the school, boy or girl,” Lewis said. “She has one of the best attitudes you can look for. She’s our girl for everything.” 

Collier is smaller in stature, but she is not one to back down from a challenge. Her height has never limited her ability. 

“For her to be so short, she has a vertical out [of] this world,” Lewis said. “She is tough as nails.” 

LaFayette will open their season on Aug. 24 when they travel to play Lanett. Then, the Bulldogs will face Lanett at least two more times during the regular season. 

“Oh my God, they are tough,” Lewis said. “Lanett girls sports is kind of like a high standard around this East Alabama area. They’re probably one of the best teams in our area.” 

LaFayette’s area will be tough this season. Last season, Horseshoe Bend and Lanett finished at the top of the area. 

“We gotta keep practicing, keep working hard and keep learning,” Lewis said. “That’s what we’re going to need. We’re going to need to practice and be better passers. If we can pass the ball, I think we’ll be fine.” 

The volleyball program at LaFayette has struggled the past few seasons. With that in mind, Lewis is going into the season with modest goals. 

“Honestly, to get a win because our girls deserve it,” Lewis said. “I don’t know the last time that this program has won a match. I’ve had about 16-17 girls out here. That’s the positive right there, just seeing the love for the sport and getting new stuff for the program.” 

Lewis is going into his second season as the head volleyball coach. Before last season, he served one year as the assistant coach. The team has not won a single game or match since he began with the team. However, the team has seen improvements this summer. One of the biggest improvements is in participation. 

“Last year, we played about three games with only five girls,” Lewis said. “Just having girls show up to practice.” 

Lewis has seen the improvements in practice. He said that the girls are constantly encouraging each other after making mistakes. 

LaFayette was able to recruit more girls to play this season in large part due to Collier. Collier encouraged her classmates to come join the team. Lewis also spent time recruiting students to come play volleyball. 

“I think that’s the start of a program,” Lewis said. “That’s the start of putting a program in the right direction. It’s not going to be built in one day.

The key for LaFayette will be working through the early challenges and keeping the girls interested in growing the program.