High School Volleyball
Newnan looks to add to last year’s turnaround
by Doug Gorman
What a difference a year makes.
Just ask the Newnan High varsity volleyball team.
After posting a 3-22 record in 2011, the squad enjoyed a 20-win turnaround last season en route to a 23-17 overall mark and a trip to the second-round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
The team’s recent success has sparked plenty of interest in the sport within the hallways on LaGrange Street.
“Enthusiasm is really high,” head coach Leslie Fant said. “We saw it kind of grow last year. I feel like we are finally starting to get the type of girls out there who are really volleyball players. We have always had some really great kids, but now we are getting some really good athletes who want to win.”
The coach’s biggest task heading into the 2013 campaign comes in replacing standouts Mimi Yancey and Ayla Brewer to graduation.
The former Lady Cougars each were named the Newnan Times Herald All-County second team after helping lead Newnan to the playoffs to close out their high school volleyball careers.
One reason for the Lady Cougars improvement is the commitment team members have made to getting better.
“I would say pretty much our whole varsity is playing year round,” Fant said. “There really are no words to how important that is. Even if you are not playing on one of the high-level teams, just getting six months of touching the ball can only help.”
Coming back to offer plenty of leadership and experience is senior middle hitter Julie Masonheimer.
Masonheimer has played club and AAU volleyball since the 2012 high school volleyball season ended.
“I really like her presence on the court,” Fant said. “She is very calm and intense at the same time.”
Masonheimer sees how winning has brought the team together. The senior expects big things to happen for the Lady Cougars again this year.
“I think we just have to hustle and make sure no balls hit the ground,” Masonheimer said. I think our offense is really strong. I think if we do that, we can take the next step up.”
Senior setter Tiffany Maes who transferred to the school last year, is now eligible for varsity play after leading Newnan’s junior varsity to a 20-plus win season as well.
“I was disappointed last year because she could have really helped us out on the varsity,” Fant said. “We could have run something different on offense.”
Junior Libero Maggie Darracott brings three years of varsity experience to the Lady Cougars.
During the 2012 season, Darracott was named to the third-team All-County squad.
Sophomore Jenny Young brings versatility to the Lady Cougars line up.
Despite her youth and inexperience, she has played in the middle and the outside last year.
This season, Fant expects Young to start as one of the team’s outside hitters.
Alison Cash and Kayla Price are also expected to be in the mix for the starting spots.
The Area 2-AAAAAA race expects to again come down to East Coweta and Newnan.
East Coweta won both the area title and the Coweta County championship last year, breaking Northgate’s string of eight straight times.
“I have gotten where I don’t even like to predict,” Fant said, adding of the area race. “I would think it will come down to us and East Coweta.”
One of Newnan’s biggest goals this season is beating the Lady Indians and Northgate to win the county title.
The Lady Indians stopped Northgate’s string of eight straight county titles last season.
“Winning the county title would be huge,” Fant said, “That would be a great indication of just how far we have come.”
Newnan will play a challenging non-region schedule that includes state powers such as Sandy Creek and most of the other Fayette County schools, defending state champion Landmark and Northgate.
“We play each of the Fayette County Schools at least twice,” Fant said. “None of them are gimmies, and that was kind of my goal. I think we are to the point now where we can compete with these teams.”
Fant’s team is excited about facing the tough non-region competition.
“It’s going to help us in different ways,” Maes said. “If we lose, we can take something away from it, and work on where we need to do to get better. If we win, we know what might work against other teams.”
Winning has helped sell the program at Newnan , but Fant gives credit to the booster club for starting several programs.
One of the biggest is a middle school camp.
“We probably had 50 or 60 girls this summer right before school started,” she said. “So that really helps us promote the sport. It helps them get excited about volleyball.”
The booster club has also picked up game sponsors for each of the home contests, so students will be able to get into the matches for a discounted rate.
“Going to the playoffs and winning has really helped,” she said.