By Jonathan Deal
The Athens Bible School volleyball team will have added motivation at this year’s state tournament. ABS players have become accustomed to competing in the Elite Eight State Finals held annually in Birmingham.
Under head coach April Davis, ABS has made it to state nine out of the last 15 seasons. The team won another area championship Monday afternoon and look on pace to make it back for the seventh time in eight years.
For Davis, it will be her last opportunity to bring home another state championship to her alma mater.
After 16 years coaching at ABS, Davis will step down after this season.
“She has carried on the tradition and raised it,” said ABS athletic director Bill Murrell. “It’s come to be expected that we will make it to the state tournament. She’s always trying to gather new ideas and drills from other successful coaches. And she has become one of the best coaches not only in 1A but in the whole state.”
Davis has been a part of two state championships at ABS — as a player, in 1989, and 20 years later as a coach. Athens Bible has as much volleyball tradition as any other 1A team in the state under Davis’ tutelage.
“She instills in her girls the desire to excel,” said ABS athletic director Bill Murrell. “She works them hard. She inspires them to do their very best and improve their skills.”
Davis grew up around the gym as a ball girl for the ABS volleyball team. She later went on to win a state title as a sophomore. Her daughter, Mackenzie, is now a ball girl and ready to join the team.
“My little girl will be playing next year,” said Davis “I want to be able to go to her games and not be coaching somewhere else. Everybody thinks I’m leaving; I’m just going from one side to the other. I just want to sit back and enjoy watching her play. I hope to still be involved.”
Davis, family and volleyball have been a winning combination for years. Last year was the first since 2004 that Davis didn’t have a family member on the team. But she says the 10 juniors and seniors that make up the bulk of this year’s team have become like family.
“I know it will mean a lot to them to make it (back to state),” said Davis. “This team is really close. We’re a big family.”
Athens Bible continues its quest for a state tournament berth when they play Marion County at 9 a.m. Friday morning in the Super Regional at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.
Friday’s game could be the start of another special run at state. But, whatever happens, Murrell said the door would remain open for Davis at ABS.
“I have tried to talk to her into staying,” said Murrell. “I’m hoping someday she’ll come back. She’s got the record and the credentials and maybe she’ll coach again.”