After serving as host to the Canopy Roads Classic preseason tournament this weekend — and sweeping a pair of matches against Niceville and North Florida Christian — the Leon High volleyball team is hoping to work its way into midseason form.
The Lions, under head coach Angie Strickland, are still trying to reload after their run to a state championship in 2011. That team graduated eight players, so it has been no easy task.
“If we work hard and utilize our communication, we will be able to do well,” Leon senior Jade Jones said before the Canopy Roads Classic, which featured several quality teams from throughout the panhandle.
Leon will get the regular season started this Friday with a non-district match at Rickards.
Then after facing John Paul II on Sept. 3, the Lions will open district play two days later against Chiles.
The Lions are especially excited about their new-look district, after previously being placed in a district with schools from Jacksonville. Not only will they get to skip those long trips, but they will get to face familiar competition in Chiles and Lincoln — the only other teams in District 2-7A.
“We want to make sure that we work hard, if not harder, especially when your in-town rivals are your biggest opponent in the districts,” Strickland said.
Said junior Emily Dempsey: “Our biggest competition is Chiles. They have been playing together for a while.”
While the Lions weren’t able to make another run to state last season, Strickland said she saw improvement in her squad and expects that to continue after a strong off-season.
And her players believe they have a chance to perform at a higher level this fall.
“We have been working really hard over the summer, and I feel like we will do well against the other teams,” junior Taylor Johnson said.