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Aquinas softball benefitting from Jessica Johnson's hot start

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As sophomore catcher Jessica Johnson takes home a national award, the Aquinas softball team is reaping the benefits.

Johnson won the MaxPreps/National Fastpitch Coaches Association High School Player of the Week award for the week of Aug. 27, going 11 for 17 with three home runs, nine RBI and six stolen bases. Johnson is hitting .632 through eight games, while the Lady Irish are 5-3.

“It’s kind of a first for us, nationally, to get recognition along those lines,” coach Scott Harrison said. “For it to be a winning week, to play six games in seven days and for her to perform that well, and for the recognition to come from it, that’s a big thing for the school and the program.”

Harrison said Aquinas is starting a few players that are new to the sport this year, but with Johnson leading the team despite being just a sophomore, the other girls are getting a chance to catch up. Harrison is optimistic the Lady Irish could set a new mark for wins in a season.

“I wasn’t expecting all that much out of the (first) tournament since we have some pretty inexperienced girls, but we did really good and they’re picking up,” Johnson said. “It makes me proud, too.”

Starting strong: The Greenbrier volleyball team has reached an 11-0 mark in the easiest of ways, shutting out every opponent they have played to this point. The most recent wins were consecutive 2-0 victories over Aiken and Grovetown on Wednesday.

“It’s probably one our best starts in our history,” coach Debbie Born said. “We knocked off Aiken last week and they were the state runner-up last year. We’re just playing really well.”

Other victories so far include Aquinas and Lakeside twice, and Evans.

Greenbrier has been led by several strong performances. Jen Purucker leads the team with 56 kills while adding 42 digs. Jen Orial has 37 kills and a 93 percent serving percentage to go along with 58 digs, while Dejhana Cotton has 31 kills and 19 blocks.

Senior libero Sarah Sather, The Augusta Chronicle player of the week, said the Lady Wolfpack are benefiting from working together well.

“Teamwork has been huge,” she said. “Our team has a good relationship on and off the court, and I think that is a huge deal in staying together. We’re a good passing team, and defense is what wins games.”

Greenbrier has several challenges remaining on the schedule. The team has road matches against Clarke Central, Heritage, Houston County and Northside, Warner Robins. The Lady Wolfpack also have matches remaining against North Augusta, Evans and Lakeside.

“We don’t have any more easy games on our schedule,” Born said. “Whether you’re .500 or 11-0, you have to play tough teams to be a good team. Our goal is to win region and go to the final eight, try to go further. We just have to stay healthy.”

Making a name: The A.R. Johnson volleyball team is off to perhaps the best start the school has seen in a long time.

The Lady Panthers are 4-3, including a 3-0 mark in Region 3-AA. The hot start has earned them a spot in the Prepcountry.com/GACA Coaches poll at No. 9 in AA, the only area volleyball program in the state polls.

“It’s been interesting,” coach Anthony Stawiery said. “This is the first year I’ve had a group of girls that are focused and serious. It’s not just an activity anymore, it’s a sport. It’s good to see that attitude out there.”

In his fourth year as coach, Stawiery said this is his first team that has had the focus and intensity needed to be successful. One of the wins he highlighted was Westside, which the Lady Panthers failed to defeat in two matches last season.

A.R. Johnson’s schedule is daunting down the stretch, including road matches against Rockdale County, Warner Robins and Lee County outside the region. Key region matches in the final weeks include rematches with Josey and Westside.


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