Valley Preps

Shaw volleyball off to strong start, expects to challenge in area play

For years, there have been a handful of volleyball teams you could count on every year in the Bi-City to contend. Beyond that, there was an ever-shifting group that might have a good season one year and fall back to the pack the next.

This year, one of the teams that has joined the fray is Shaw, which is 16-5 so far. As they get set to begin area play on Tuesday against Hardaway, though, the Lady Raiders are trying to be more than just a flash in the pan. New coach Rad Mitchell is trying to remind his group the reputation of Shaw athletics from when he was a student there, playing under the likes of Charles Flowers before graduating in 2005.

“I have pride in Shaw,” he said. “I know what Shaw used to be, and I just want these girls to realize that Shaw isn’t supposed to be second-tier. I want them to get that in their mind, and once they do they’re capable of anything.”

So far, the Lady Raiders seem to have gotten the message.

They played well out of area, going 16-5 and picking up a big win against Harris County, one of those programs that is typically among the key contenders in the area. After that, the confidence and expectations increased.

Mitchell said that the expectations from the girls was already high entering the season, though. He has a group of about seven girls who played club volleyball during the offseason in hopes of getting a jump on the fall.

“That’s what separates teams like Columbus and Northside,” he said. “We’re as athletic as anyone, we just needed to perfect some of those skills.”

The progress has shown. Now, though, he knows that Shaw isn’t going to surprise anyone.

“You’re not sneaking up on anyone anymore,” he said. “They aren’t just going to go in to area play thinking, ‘Ok, it’s Shaw.’ They’re going to go in know we’re a quality opponent. We’ve done great, but the next three or four weeks is what will decide everything for us.”

David Mitchell: 706-571-8571, @leprepsports