High School Volleyball

With starting setter back, Lady Cougars have lofty goals

by Doug Gorman

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Newnan goes through practice on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for its 2014 season opener. 

The 2013 volleyball season at Newnan High School will be remembered as plenty of good, but a whole lot of heartache for the Lady Cougars.

Despite finishing with an impressive 25-15 record and a second-round trip to the Class AAAAAA playoffs, Newnan fans were left wondering what could have been had junior setter Tiffany Maes not suffered a seasonending torn ACL early in the schedule.

'We did some good things, but it was also a very disappointing year,' head coach Leslie Fant said. 'When Tiffany got hurt, that changed much about what we were able to do.'

First-Team All-County performer Julie Masonheimer, who signed with Valdosta State, moved over to Maes' setter spot and filled in, be it in an unfamiliar position.

'Julie was a great player for us, and stepped in where we needed her,' Fant said.

Now, the Lady Cougars are trying to put last year's rollercoaster season behind them by turning their attention to this fall, beginning with a trip to Whitewater on Tuesday in a tri-match with Landmark Christian. Newnan then joins East Coweta and Northgate in the annual Sequoyah Classic on Aug. 15-16.

'Last year was a little disheartening, because we were good, but we really feel like we could have been much better,' Fant said. 'I am proud of the way we pulled through all the adversity. It helped our mental toughness.'

Maes is slowly working her way back to full strength in time for her senior year.

'She is not 100 percent yet, but she is close. Just to have her back is great. She's only been back in the gym a couple of months,' Fant added of Maes. 'She wasn't able to do anything at all for a long time. She is probably a month away from being back to normal, but she is ready.'

Senior Maggie Darracott is also expected to help pace the Lady Cougars to another playoff run.

The defensive specialist is a three-year starter and earned Second-Team All County honors last year with 167 digs. At times, her serve was also unreturnable as she finished with 25 aces.

'She has been absolutely amazing,' Fant said of Darracott. 'She works so hard and makes things happen for us.'

Kayla Price also is back for her senior year.

'We are confident our seniors are going to do a great job of leading us,' Fant said.

Junior outside hitter Jenni Young returns to the Lady Cougars after earning Second- Team All-County honors last year with 270 kills and 70 digs.

'We are expecting really big things from her,' Fant said of Young.

Both Newnan and East Coweta move into a new eight-team Area 3-AAAAAA that includes holdovers Douglas County, Langston Hughes and Westlake while adding Cobb schools Pebblebrook, South Cobb and Campbell.

'It should be a little more competitive than it's been the last two years in the region. I think some of these teams are a little more solid, but I don't think the new teams are going to dominate,' Fant said. 'We are still really relying mostly on our out-of-area schedule.'

The Lady Cougars plan on gearing up for a postseason run against non-region opponents such as defending Class AAAAA champion McIntosh, state power Whitewater, Sandy Creek, Starr's Mill and Northside Columbus.

'Basically everybody we are playing in non-area games made it to at least the Elite 8 last year in 5-A or 6-A,' Fant said. ' I tried to schedule teams that really did well last year. 'I think that will only help us down the stretch and make us stronger.'

The Lady Cougars also have area rival East Coweta circled on their calendar. The two teams met on Sept. 11 at Northgate as part of the annual Coweta County Championships.

Fant believes winning the county tournament is important, but she is quick to point out it doesn't make or break the season.

'I think it's huge from a mental standpoint,' she said. 'I try not to put a lot of stress or importance on it, because I feel like sometimes the girls fixated on it, and I don't want them to think it is the most important part of the season.'



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