CENTRE – The 2021 volleyball season wasn’t the most ideal for the Cherokee County Lady Warriors. Five starters suffered various injuries, forcing head coach Tiffany Rieger to call upon several young and inexperienced players to fill their roles.
The Lady Warriors struggled throughout the year, but Rieger is hoping that trial-by-fire experience will pay dividends in 2022. Judging by what she’s seen from her squad during the summer, the Lady Warriors appear primed for a big turnaround.
“After all the moving around we did last year, it made this summer very stressful for our coaching staff trying to decide who should play where, but having multiple athletes who can be successful in various positions is a great problem to have,” Rieger said.
“Our younger players gained so much experience last year that it has bolstered both their individual self-confidence and our talent level as a team. Last year was hard, and our final record did not reflect the amount of growth that we saw over those three months. I hope and expect that experience to be a big advantage moving into this season.”
To help the Lady Warriors finely-tune their game, Rieger asked former Lady Warrior and current University of Alabama-Huntsville coach Jon Moseley to run a camp exclusively with her players. Rieger said Moseley worked with the Lady Warriors on their individual skills as well as team offense and defense.
Assistant coach Dusty Cothran’s brother Chris Cothran also worked with the Lady Warriors on drills specifically targeted at improving their hitting and serving.
Those coaching sessions helped translate into the Lady Warriors posting a 3-1 mark at a Supreme Courts play date near the end of July.
“The girls showed lots of energy and excitement, but most importantly in my book, they displayed more mental toughness than I have seen in them in the past,” Rieger said.
“We also played a scrimmage match with Armuchee which was helpful in identifying some areas we needed to spend some more time on. During the first week of practice, we worked on serve receive passing pretty much the entire week, then we participated in a referee clinic at Gadsden City this past Saturday.
“Coach Dusty and I were both thrilled with the improvement we saw in our passing. The girls went 3-0, and we were able to run some plays that we had not run in previous play dates due to the improvement in our passing technique.”
Speaking of passing, freshman Macy Lea returns as the Lady Warriors’ top setter. Rieger said Lea “soaks up instruction like a sponge.”
“She immediately goes out there and executes what she’s been taught,” Rieger said. “She was able to run our offense without a hitch.”
Backing up Lea at the setter position is junior Aubrie Abernathy, who will also be a serving specialist and defensive specialist.
Freshman Nevaeh Gaidurgis and sophomore Vivian Connell will be returning in the middle.
“Nevaeh is a very quiet individual, but she makes her presence known on the court,” Rieger said. “She is able to hit various sets using different shots and tempos which is key to throwing off the opposing team’s defense.
“Vivian is disciplined, hard-working, and coachable. We knew she would give us 110 percent, even though it would take her out of her comfort zone (from playing right side). She isn’t a very tall player (5-foot-4), and I’m sure some people thought we were crazy moving someone at that height to middle. However, she finished last season with the most blocks because she’s always in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.”
The Lady Warriors also have the Garmany sisters returning to their lineup after both had season-ending injuries last year. Senior Ella Garmany will play outside and middle. Freshman Raegan Garmany will be blocking and hitting from the right side.
Junior Anna Walker and sophomore Libby Curry will be joining Ella Garmany on the outside. Defensive players in the lineup include senior Karlee Jolly, junior Emilee Paul, and freshman Ellisan Givens.
Helping the Lady Warriors turn the page on last season is a new home court in which to play. The Warrior Dome surface received a facelift that was finished last month.
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to play on such a beautiful surface,” Rieger said. “It was a much-needed upgrade, and it goes along nicely with our new net system and our new uniforms.”
The Lady Warriors also compete in a new area this season: Class 4A, Area 11 with Ashville and Etowah. Cherokee County played both teams last season.
“I think our area will be pretty evenly matched,” Rieger said. “We each have our strengths, and I believe it will be some fun competition.”
Cherokee County opens the 2022 season on Aug. 18 at Fort Payne with Scottsboro and Ider.
“We have a wonderful group of girls, both on and off the court,” Rieger said. “They are looking forward to being able to take CCHS volleyball back to Huntsville for the first time in a long time.”