Bartholomew leads Lady Indians after record year

by Doug Gorman

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East Coweta senior and twotime Times-Herald Player of the Year Jessi Bartholomew has made a verbal commitment to sign with Duke's volleyball program. 

The East Coweta volleyball team raised the bar to a whole new level last season under first-year head coach Amber McClure.

With a school-record 43 victories and a trip to the Class AAAAAA Sweet 16, the Lady Indians had one of its most successful volleyball campaigns ever while also winning an Area 2-AAAAAA title.

East Coweta also repeated a s Coweta County Champions with wins over Newnan and Northgate, with this year's tri-match scheduled for Sept. 11 at Northgate. With a year under her belt, however, McClure thinks the Lady Indians are just now scratching the surface for just how good the team can be this season and in the future.

'Last year was really excited for us,' she said. 'The girls all really worked hard and bought into what we were trying to accomplish and teach, but we have even higher expectations.'

The te am's suc c e s s included two winning streaks of 10 and 12 games while finishing 43-7 after falling to eventual state semifinalist South Forsyth in the Sweet 16. It helped to have two-time Newnan Times Herald Player of the Year Jessi Bartholomew in the lineup as McClure made the jump from coaching in middle school to the high school level.

Bartholomew was a dominating force as a junior, finishing with 529 kills, 232 aces, 46 assists and 167 digs.

She heads into her final year of high school action verbally committed to play college volleyball at ACC power Duke.

'There is a lot of pressure off of her now, and she can enjoy her senior year,' McClure said. 'I am glad she got it out of the way, so she can concentrate on the season and having a little bit of fun.'

Bartholomew is among the four seniors who McClure will be counting on to take the Lady Indians back to the playoffs.

Outside hitter Haylea Mannebach earned Coweta County honorable mention honors last year and is back for her senior year while joining right hitter Casey Padgett and Elizabeth Schramm, whom equally bring experience back to the court.

'Our four seniors have all been around the program for a long time,' McClure said. They all have great attitudes and are working hard.'

Junior Dominique Ingram is also back after a stellar season for the Lady Indians. East Coweta's middle hitter earned Second-Team All-County recognition in 2013 after finishing with 159 kills.Like Ingram, Sydney Winters and Katie Jones had solid sophomore campaigns in 2013 and come back with high expectations in 2014.

This past spring McClure started a boys club program, teaching the game to some of the best male athletes in the school.

Even though boys volleyball isn't sanctioned by the Georgia High School Association, the team from East Coweta did well, winning a 15-team sponsored by the Georgia Volleyball Coaches Association.

McClure said this shows how popular the sport is becoming. She thinks the boys team can even pay dividends for the Lady Indians.

'They are learning the game and they can help us do things in practice, it should really be a benefit to the girls.'

East Coweta moves into Area 3-AAAAAA this year while rejoined by Newnan, Douglas County, Langston Hughes and Westlake. The group is joined by Cobb schools Campbell, Pebblebrook and South Cobb, some of which played in a former 2-AAAAA area previously with both Coweta schools.

The non-area schedule, however, could offer the Lady Indians their biggest challenge during the 2014 season.

The Lady Indians scrimmage Fayette County on Thursday in their first test against live competition before traveling to Cherokee on consecutive weekends for a playdate at Woodstock followed by the annual Sequoyah Classic.

'We are going to get to see some really good competition early,' McClure said. 'These tournaments attract some really good quality teams.'



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