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EA bump, set, spiking again

By By Matthew Nascone
When Keri Payne arrived at Escambia Academy last year she was approached about starting a volleyball program at the Academy. Payne started the program off slow, by putting up a net for the students to play with during gym class.
That net during gym class turned into a bunch of boxes sitting in the middle school gymnasium awaiting completion of the new volleyball net system in the main gymnasium. Now the gym will be used for volleyball in the fall and basketball in the spring semester.
"When we put the nets up last year it really sparked the interest of these kids," Payne said. "We had the girls saying they wanted to get a competitive team together and that is what we are doing this year."
The team will consist of 11 girls and Payne will be the head coach of EAs first volleyball team in what Payne said has been a span of eight years.
"They are excited to get the season started and they want to go out there and give it their best," Payne said.
Starting a team from scratch can be hard and Payne said her girls have the right attitude about it and that is good.
"These girls are starting from ground zero," she said. "None of them have any experience playing volleyball, but we have some very talented athletes on this team and we have good potential. We will not be a push-over, these girls will keep competing even when it seems like they are down and out. And that is what I love about them."
The squad began practice June 14 and has been lifting weights, conditioning and learning the basics of the game. They practice three days a week.
Payne has been a leader of a volleyball team in the past as an assistant volleyball coach at Northview High School before going to EA. She played varsity volleyball at Ernest Ward High School. She did not play in college at Okaloosa-Walton Community College because she signed a softball scholarship with the Raiders and she focused on that rather than play both sports.
Payne said that the girls will get frustrated during the learning process.
"I have to tell them to not worry about making mistakes," she said. "Because everyone makes mistakes, but we are finding out who will be our passers, setters and hitters. And when we find that out we will be OK."
Heath Gibson, EAs athletic director, said this is a great opportunity for these girls.
"I think this is a wonderful thing for the athletic program," Gibson said.
And the girls are ready for the season to start.
"I am excited because we have never had a volleyball program since I have been here at EA," Clare Jones said.
And another avenue for girls to show off their talents is always a good thing, according to Anna-Lisa McGhee.
"This gives girls at this school another sport to play besides basketball," she said.
The 11-member volleyball team of Erin Burkette, Courtney Bruley, Morgan Dorriety, Anna-Lisa McGhee, Amber Huskey, Jordan Jaye, Lauren Wilson, Clare Jones, Andrea Nall, Ashley Geck and Katie Smith will play a 22-game schedule, not including participation in the Clarke Prep Tournament on the weekend of Sept. 16. The team kicks off the season Aug. 24 at home against Fort Dale.