Volleyball: Johns Creek off to hot start under Ladson

By Zach Shugan

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The 2021 season just began, but Johns Creek is off to a hot start with a new head coach.

The first day teams across the state could play games was Aug. 9. As of Aug. 17, Johns Creek has already won seven games and lost just once.

The Gladiators hosted North Forsyth and North Springs on Tuesday, winning one game and losing the other. They fell 2-0 to North Forsyth, a team they beat 2-0 the week prior, in the first game of the night. In their second game, they bounced back from their first loss of the season and won 2-0 (25-13, 25-5) over North Springs, improving to 7-1 overall on the young season.

Johns Creek head coach E’Lisa Ladson (far right) speaks to the team in a timeout during their Aug. 17 win over North Springs. (Zach Shugan)

“It’s going great,” Johns Creek’s new head coach E’Lisa Ladson said. “Just coming in trying to change the mentality. We can be successful. We just have to believe in our team and believe in ourselves.”

The first set against North Springs was a fairly competitive one. The teams traded runs, but ultimately Johns Creek stayed in control and took a 25-13 win. The second set, however, was all Johns Creek. The Gladiators took over 10 consecutive points early in the set to put the Spartans behind and ended up winning 25-5 to close out the night.

Johns Creek is led by Lauren Eitler, Claudia Loyola and Emily Zubriski, a trio of seniors who have stood out to Ladson early in her tenure. Ladson was named head coach in May following time at North Gwinnett, Discovery and Greater Atlanta Christian.

Johns Creek senior Claudia Loyola prepares to serve during the Gladiators’ Aug. 17 win over North Springs. (Zach Shugan)

“[Eitler’s] our senior stud outside hitter. She’s standing out as a big leader for us, and she plays all the way around so that’s good for us. Claudia Loyola is our defensive specialist and libero. She brings a lot of energy and lot of fire to the team, so she’s a good asset. And our setter, another senior Emily Zubriski, came to us as a defender but she beautiful hands and she’s actually taking charge for our setter position.”

All three played a large role in the Gladiators’ win Tuesday. And though the season is just over one week old, Ladson loves what she sees from them and the rest of the team.

“I think the season is going to go great,” Ladson said. “We have a lot of great pieces, and now it’s just a matter of putting them all together.”

With a 7-1 record, Johns Creek already has more wins this season than it did in 2020 when it finished with a 6-10 record and missed the state playoffs for the third year in a row.

The Gladiators return to action Thursday, hosting Fellowship Christian and Duluth.

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