HIES Madi Jensen

Holy Innocents’ junior Madi Jensen goes up for a kill during regular season action. Jensen is one of the key returners for Coach Taylor Noland.

Holy Innocents reached the pinnacle of Georgia high school volleyball by winning the Class A Private state championship in 2020.

Reaching those lofty heights will be more of a challenge in 2021 for the Golden Bears, who lost seven of their starting players from last year’s state title team.

With a much younger and more inexperienced lineup, Holy Innocents has struggled with a 7-10 overall record and 3-1 mark in Region 5A Private as of Sept. 22.

“It’s a little bit of a rebuilding year,” Holy Innocents coach Taylor Noland said. “I hate to use that word, but we graduated seven seniors last year and they were all starters. So we have a very young team and for some of these kids, it’s really their first time competing and being on the court. The girls have put in a lot of hard work. It’s all about peaking at the right time. We are 3-1 in the region and we have a very challenging region and right now, our focus is on region play. Only four teams from the region make it to the state playoffs and that’s why we’re putting all of our focus there.”

After losing seven of their first nine games in a tough early-season schedule featuring a number of state powerhouse teams – including fellow Northside defending state champions Pace Academy (AA) and Westminster (AAA) – the Golden Bears have seemed to hit their stride with five wins in the last eight games.

As a result, Holy Innocents was in second place in 5A Private – only one game behind first place local rival Mount Vernon (4-0) – as of Sept. 22.

“It’s hard for high school athletes to see the progress that they are making when everything is resulting in a win,” Noland said. “But my coaching staff and I have seen the progress. These girls work really hard. They hate to disappoint and I have absolutely seen them improve, although that is not necessarily reflected in their record.”

For Noland, the tough challenges that her young players have faced early in the season have helped their development.

“Even though we are very young, I think that is one of our strengths,” Noland said. “These kids are getting the opportunity to be on the court against some really good competition and have gone through some adversity and they have shown some resilience and heart and that’s what I think I’m most proud of,”

Senior libero Molly Medeiros and junior outside hitter Madi Jensen have led the way for Holy Innocents this season.

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