Volleyball County Championships
County teams renew rivalries on court today
by Doug Gorman
A year ago, there was a changing of the guard when it came to bragging rights among Coweta County’s varsity volleyball teams.
After watching Northgate reel off seven consecutive county titles, the East Coweta Lady Indians took over as queens of the local volleyball courts in 2012, defeating the Lady Vikings 2-1 and Newnan 2-0 to capture the annual Coweta Championships.
East Coweta defends its crown today when the three schools reunite at Newnan’s Max Bass Athletic Complex starting at 5 p.m. .
The tri-match begins with the host Lady Cougars taking on Northgate, East Coweta playing the Lady Vikings at 6 p.m. and concluding with Newnan facing the Lady Indians at 7 p.m.
Unlike the last meeting between Newnan and East Coweta held a week ago at Newnan, tonight’s match counts in the Area 2-AAAAAA standings.
Although the tournament won’t have any role in how far Northgate goes in the postseason, Lady Vikings coach Matt Trucks knows winning the event can serve as a motivator as the team tries to recapture the county crown. His girls enter tonight with a No. 5 ranking in Class AAAAA, but while coming off a rougher weekend at the prestigious Lovett Block Party event last weekend.
“Everybody wants to win this,” he said. “We lost it last year, so this should be self-motivating. It is not something I really even need to talk to the girls about.”
East Coweta comes into the tournament ranked sixth in this week Class AAAAAA Coaches poll.
The Lady Indians bring a 15-4 record into the event under first-year head coach Amber McClure while succeeding through a demanding non-region schedule that has included a 3-1 record against top-10 ranked teams in Class AAAAAA heading into last week.
“I’ve been very, very pleased,” McCLure said last week. “I couldn’t be happier with out schedule.”
There is plenty of talent on this year’s team.
East Coweta junior Jessie Bartholomew is among the state’s leaders with 40 kills. Senior Sydney Mauer leads the Lady Indians with 355 assists.
Senior libero Savannah Freeman has also led the defensive effort for the Lady Indians.
Newnan suffered a devastating blow early this year when starting setter Tiffany Maes went down with a knee injury.
Before her injury, Maes had complied 132 assists while playing an important role in her team’s early-season win against Northgate.
“The key for us is trying to find somebody who can replace Tiffany,” Leslie Fant said. “We really didn’t have a backup setter.”
Even the loss of Maes, Newnan’s program continues to experience a resurgence in talent. Allison Cash leads the team with 17 aces. Jenni Young, Julie Masonheimer each had 10 aces in their victory over Tri-Cities Tuesday night. Kayla Prince added eight aces against the Lady Bulldogs.
“If we can just find somebody who can play confidently, we should be fine,” Fant said. “We have girls who can play, they just need to step it up.”
Until last season, Northgate had dominated the county event with seven straight victories.
Northgate began the 2013 season trying to replace five seniors, including Elle McCord who earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia.
This year, with just three seniors, Randee Harvel, Michaella Crooks and Erin Valentine, the Lady Vikings are going through somewhat of rebuilding year.
Junior captain Lexi Rose has been one of the Lady Vikings most versatile players, getting time at libero, defensive specialist and right side hitter.
“We are really getting some good leadership out of our seniors,” Trucks said.
The Lady Vikings enter the tournament with a 13-12 record and a 4-1 mark in Region 4-AAAAA play.
With its victory over Mt. Zion Tuesday, the Lady Vikings snapped a six-game losing streak, but Northgate has played a challenging schedule that including a visit to the Lovett tournament over the weekend where it faced some of the state’s top teams.
“We have played a brutal schedule so far this year,” Trucks said. “Hopefully, that will only make us better.”