Gilbert returned to a place of prominence on the Class 2A volleyball scene in 2008. The Indians won the Region 4-2A championship and the Upper State title before falling to imperious Bishop England in the state championship match.
“This season has been unbelievable,” said coach Jackie Shealy, whose team finished with a 20-1 grade in on-tournament matches.
“I am extremely proud of the accomplishments this team made this year and amazed at the dedication and hard work that was given by the team. They believed in themselves and each other and that made our team successful. Losing the state championship match 3-0 and having comments from a local paper stating that there is still a big difference between first and second place in our class division will be a motivator to work harder and prepare even more to return to the state during the 2009 season. “Our scrappy defense definitely carried us this season. In order to be successful next season, we will need to focus on our offense more and be able to put the ball away. That will mean more consistent passes. If our passing game was off, then we struggled to accumulate the kills we needed.”
Steady Jasmine Strother is the only player in the regular rotation leaving the fold. Strother had 66 kills and 43 digs this season.
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Otherwise, Sarah Eargle, Courtney Frye, Whitney Strother, Gabby Juarez, Victoria Burkett, Kayla Bishop and Dallas Frick are all expected to return for another title bid in 2009.
Whitney Strother and Eargle were both named to the all-region team, and Strother, a sophomore middle hitter, also was an all-state selection. Strother led the team with 203 kills and 26 blocks, and chipped in 72 aces and 25 digs. Eargle had a terrific all-around season, ringing up 198 kills, 132 aces, 51 digs and 12 blocks.
Frye kept the attack in order as the primary setter, and finished with 388 assists, 38 aces, 31 digs and 10 blocks. Burkett contributed 74 kills and 57 digs. Juarez and Bishop were solid in defensive specialist roles and Frick provided relief at the net.