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LA finally gets title

MERRY HILL n This one has been elusive.

For the past four years Lawrence Academy volleyball has been on the rise, but unable to capture that elusive Tarheel Independent Conference championship.

Many would have doubted the 2006 team would be the one to get it done. The squad had only two seniors with experience and all six starters from the 2005 team graduated.

Well, as the wise sometimes say, no one told the Lady Warriors.

With new skipper Dr. Ed Clouse in tow, the Lawrence squad rolled off 11 wins in 12 conference outings and claimed the TIC title by two games.

“It’s great” senior Ashley Swain said of winning the league title. “I’m used to it in softball, but this has been a different experience.”

Classmate Nicole Biggs was equally proud of the accomplishment. After taking three seasons off to cheer, Biggs was able to be on both squads this year.

“It’s special because of coming back,” she said. “It’s like any year, it means our team has done really well and that’s an accomplishment.”

Senior Jenna Griffin was on last year’s squad and saw quality on minutes on the floor, but felt comfortable with this year’s team.

“I’m very proud because the varsity team at Lawrence hasn’t done this in a long time,” she said.

The Warriors, with virtually the same club, captured the TIC conference title as junior varsity performers two years ago.

The four seniors said they felt like that championship helped them this season.

“We all played together on the jayvee championship,” Dani Davenport said. “Last year we got separated and we were looking forward to being back together.”

Griffin agreed.

“This is the same girls that won the conference and the tournament as jayvees,” Griffin said. “We were looking forward to this year because we could all be together again.”

Swain echoed the thoughts, saying she was happy to be reunited with her entire team after part of the group was on varsity last year and the other part on junior varsity.

“This year has been fun because we got to play together n the seniors especially, but all of us,” Swain said.

The Warriors finished the regular season 18-2 overall and are the number one seed heading into the Tarheel Independent Conference, which they will host this week.

In his first year on the job, Clouse said he wasn’t aware of the history of the program when he came, but had learned quickly.

He said the group of young ladies that made up his team made the first year at the school an important one.

“It’s good to have a group of girls who do what you ask of them because they know you have their best interests at heart and are trying to put them in the best position to win,” he said. “This is the first group I’ve ever coached that they are all intelligent and athletic. They pick up things quickly.”

One thought that weaved through each person’s thoughts of the club was the concept of team.

“They play as a team,” Clouse said. “This is truly a team. When I pull the starters out, they sit on the bench and cheer for their teammates.

“At this point, when they make mistakes, they know how to correct them,” he added. “I’m a little less intense on the bench because I don’t have to get their attention because they know what’s going on.”

Clouse also believed the junior varsity championship helped the team do well.

“They’ve had experience winning,” he said. “Obviously that helped. If they had to learn to be winners, it would have taken a few years.”

Clouse said he was glad to see his four seniors go out with the championship as that was something he always stressed n sending the senior class out as winners.

The coach also said he thought the TIC title would help as he started to build a program.

“It helps immensely,” he said. “Some of the girls who were unsure of coming out now realize I’m firm, but I can help them improve as players and, hopefully, that means they’ll be coming out.”

The Warriors open play in the TIC tournament Wednesday afternoon.