It's never easy for a first-year coach to come into a program, but it's even tougher taking over a team that struggled the year prior. But that's the situation Kailey Vaughn Martin found herself in after being named the Adairsville volleyball coach.
A former Sonoraville standout, Vaughn Martin inherited a Tigers squad coming off a two-win season. Despite doubling that total in her first year, Vaughn Martin is certainly hoping for bigger and better things in Year 2.
"We are definitely looking a lot better than we did last year at this point," Vaughn Martin said. "... I just think we're setting ourselves up for a lot better outcome than we did last year."
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Adairsville in 2018. Vaughn Martin had previously coached club volleyball and had her pick of the cream of the crop. At the high school level, the talent pool to draw from is a lot smaller.
"Coming in last year, it was basically building a team from scratch," Vaughn Martin said. "They didn't have very many sound fundamentals. We had to go through the basics and really learn each step of how to play the game correctly."
Now that the Tigers have gone through that process, the next step is taking their game to the next level. As any volleyball coach will say, building chemistry will be a major determining factor in how successful the team is this season.
"We have a lot better chemistry with this being my second year," Vaughn Martin said. "The first year, you're just trying to get to know each other and build off of that. Now to actually have that foundation of skills, we're building from that foundation, enhancing those skills and trying to figure out how to win matches."
Adairsville's first chance to get into the win column will be in its own Welcome to The Jungle tournament Saturday. The Tigers will face off against Bartow County rivals Cass and Woodland, as well as Kell, in one of the pools of the eight-team tourney.
It will be the first chance for Adairsville to see how well it will replace its five graduates. Vaughn Martin is hopeful that the mix of four varsity returners and other up-and-comers can produce a winning
"We had several younger girls step up to fill the places of the seniors we got rid of," Vaughn Martin said. "We have a couple of freshmen playing on varsity. I have one junior captain and one senior captain. They have really stepped up and taken lead of the team. They're pushing each other as hard as they can every practice and doing their best to keep their spirits up. ... They've really shown up and shown out."
In particular, it appears as though the sophomore class could be an X-factor. Even if the group doesn't contribute to double-digit wins this year, the expectation would be that those players lead the Tigers program turnaround.
"I have seven sophomores who are fighting for varsity spots," Vaughn Martin said. "They're gaining more confidence by the day and figuring out where their niche is on the court. They have really shown up this summer and stepped up to the plate. We're excited for them to show off what they've got."
While her players are certainly looking forward to serving up a competitive campaign, Vaughn Martin, likewise, is thrilled to get the season underway.
"I'm stoked," she said. "I love volleyball. I loved it for the last 10 years that I got to play. Getting to share my love for the game through coaching and the ability to teach others, I'm super excited. We have a good season ahead of us, and I can't wait to see what the girls have to bring."