High School Volleyball
Coweta teams closing gap on state’s best
East Coweta’s volleyball team looks like a squad on a mission this year under the direction of first-year head coach Amber McClure, especially after the Lady Indians fought off determined rivals Northgate and Newnan to capture their second straight Coweta County Championship.
The matches improved East Coweta record to 17-4 and certainly won't hurt its positioning in the Class AAAAAA coaches' poll while currently ranked eighth in the state.
The squad is led by seniors Syndey Mauer and Savannah Freeman while junior Jessi Bartholomew has turned into one of the top players in the state.
Although the Lady Indians repeated as county champions, all three teams are expected to be in the state tournament field when postseason play begins next week.
"These were very competitive matches," McClure said. "It says a lot about these county and the volleyball being played. I think we are really catching up with some of the other teams.
That shows with Newnan's improvement since finshing 3-22 in 2011.
The turnaround began last year with a 23-17 record that had the Lady Cougars advancing further than East Coweta to the second round of the the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
Newnan enters this week at 12-6 despite losing starting setter Tiffany Maes for the season to a knee injury two weeks ago.
It forced senior Julie Masonheimer to move from her outside hitting spot to a position she had never played before.
Before Maes injury, the Lady Cougars were on a roll, even beating rival Northgate in a early-season tournament.
When the two teams met in the rematch, Northgate won, but it took three sets to decide.
“I don’t think it (the county tournament) has ever been this close,” Newnan head coach Leslie Fant said. “I think everybody in our county as beaten the Fayette County teams other than maybe McIntosh, so that says a lot. We are competing with them now, where in the past there wasn’t a competition.”
Until last year, Northgate had dominated the event, winning the county tournament seven straight times.
Now, Northgate head coach Matt Trucks knows his team isn’t not just going to step on the court and expect to win against the Lady Indians and Lady Cougars.
“All three of these schools are really good,” he said. “It is very competitive now, and that has been the goal of the county all along.
Seniors Randee Harvel, Erin Valentine and Michaelle Crooks are leading the way after replacing Elle McCord, who is now a freshman at Georgia.
Despite the loss, Trucks thinks his team takes something into the rest of the season.
“We didn’t win the county title, but we got to play two really good and competitive matches, and that will only help us down the stretch,” he said.
The stretch drive starts for all three teams starting Tuesday.
East Coweta travels to Morrow for games with the Lady Mustangs and Luella in Area 2-AAAAAA matches.
Also in Area 2-AAAAAA action on Tuesday, Newnan travels to Westlake a tri-match with Lovejoy.
Northgate returns to Area 4-AAAAA play at Whitewater in a quad-match with Drew and McIntosh.