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Volleyball: After historic season, Pinecrest Academy still finding their way early on
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Pinecrest Academy’s Annie Irlbeck (9) and teammates celebrate after winning a point against Lumpkin County on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

The Pinecrest Academy volleyball team has lost the first six points in its match against Lumpkin County, but Gino Acevedo isn’t panicking.

“When you’re doing this job, you can’t,” he said.

In terms of skids, this is one of the smaller ones that the Paladins’ first-year head coach has had to work through, just over halfway through his debut season as a high school coach. The Paladins are 5-12. In fact, Pinecrest got to its sixth match of the season before the Paladins even won a set.

Struggles like that weren’t entirely unexpected, though. Pinecrest had one of its best years in school history in 2016, going 24-12, knocking off bigger opponents like West Forsyth and Northview and reaching the GHSA playoffs for the first time in school history.

They did it with five seniors, though, including the team leaders in kills and digs, and head coach Sandy Seiferth also left after the season.  

“We’re a brand-new team,” said senior middle Caroline Clark, who did lead the team in blocks in 2016.

The Paladins are a smaller one, too, with just eight players, as opposed to the 12 on the team last season. Brooke Miller, the team’s senior libero, has also had the challenge of readjusting to the game after missing two seasons due to injury.

Acevedo knew of the team’s circumstances before the season started, though, and didn’t expect immediate perfection.

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Pinecrest Academy volleyball coach Gino Acevedo gives his team instructions before their game Tuesday, Aug. 29, against Lumpkin County. - photo by Brian Paglia

“You’re adjusting to the team, you’re getting to know the players, (and) you’re also trying which option’s going to work better for the team,” Acevedo said. “So in that respect, you may expect that you’re not going to perform your best at the beginning of the season, but hopefully by the end of the season, we’re going to be in a better spot.”

Acevedo also has multiple decades of coaching experience to keep him grounded. He’s a native of Colombia, where he played and coached at the collegiate level. He moved to Canada in 2001, and he later became certified as a coach there and worked at the club level. He’s lived in the Atlanta area for two years and has coached with the Atlanta Extreme club program.

Acevedo has taken a relatively laid-back approach to coaching the Paladins, keeping in mind that the players are fairly experienced in the sport and have been playing together longer than he has been coaching them.

“He kind of lets us figure it out on our own a little bit,” Clark said. “And I feel like that helps us, because we know each other pretty well off the court, so that helps us in the game. He kind of lets us do our own thing.”

And Acevedo’s many years in the sport have taught him that six points is not that much, even in the scheme of a single set. In that Aug. 29 match, the Paladins, bigger and more powerful than Lumpkin County, gradually worked their way back, eventually tying the set at 20-20 and poking ahead to win the set 25-22. The next sets are easier affairs for the Paladins – they win the second one 25-19 and the third 25-21 to get their first three-set win of the season.

Pinecrest had gone to a 6-2 rotation for the match, working in more setters on the court. It worked, apparently, because according to both Clark and Acevedo, the win was the Paladins’ best of the season.

Acevedo said he wasn’t discouraged, even during the season-opening slump, and the win over the Indians showed why.

“I could see the talent of the players,” Acevedo said.