By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
CENTRE – Despite being predominantly sophomore and freshmen based, the Cherokee County Lady Warriors are proving to be quite competitive this volleyball season.
Head coach Tiffany Rieger is looking for that breakthrough match where they defeat a team they might not should on paper. They had two golden opportunities to do just that on Monday at home against Class 5A Southside of Gadsden and Sand Rock, but the growing pains are still there.
The Lady Warriors lost to Southside 16-25, 18-25. They managed to go the distance against Sand Rock, but again fell in three sets 16-25, 25-16, 15-11.
“There were times where we really battled. We had some really long rallies,” Rieger said. “You see them play somebody that’s really good like Southside, against a good hitter like Lexie (Graham) is and they’re kind of like ‘Whoa’. That’s when you go they’re all sophomores and freshmen. They’re not used to that.
Rieger said the Lady Warriors (16-9) need to develop more mental toughness.
“It’s kind of like there’s a glass ceiling over us. They don’t know how good they can be and we haven’t busted through that yet. I think the second they do, and we beat a team maybe we shouldn’t beat, we might be able to take it to another level. Right now we keep hitting our head.”
Against Southside, Macy Lea managed 16 assists, six digs, a block. Raegan Garmany contributed four kills and a dig. Lilly Shaw had three blocks, a kill and a dig. Ava Haygood managed five kills, four digs and a block. Libby Curry collected six digs and three kills. Emilee Paul posted four digs and an ace. Ellisan Givens posted 17 digs. Nevaeh Gaidurgis finished with four kills and three digs.
After Sand Rock went the distance with Southside in a 25-20, 20-25, 12-15 loss, that set the stage for the Lady Wildcats nightcap with the Lady Warriors.
Cherokee County trailed 17-15 in the first set before Sand Rock went on an 8-1 run to take the lead in the match. Tied at 14 in the second, the Lady Warriors went on an 11-2 run to even the match at a set apiece to force a decisive third set.
The Lady Warriors managed to hold a 10-9 advantage in the third set heading down the stretch, but Sand Rock surged back out in front and took the win by going on a 6-1 run.
“That was good for us, for them to challenge us,” Sand Rock coach Lisa Bates said. “We’ve been working on trying to finish those tight games, those third games. We’ve been focusing at practice on finishing and what we want to do at the end of the game to finish. I’m glad we did that in the match against Cherokee County.”
Katelyn St.Clair led Sand Rock (17-10) with 25 kills and 13 digs in the tri-match. Rylin St.Clair added 41 assists and 16 digs. Zoey Handy had eight blocks and 10 kills. Chloe Stephens contributed 20 digs and three aces. Amber Day finished with 17 digs.
“I thought they did a good job of coming back (against Cherokee County), but I was not happy with how we served the whole day,” Bates said. “We just kept missing serves that last game.
“Against Southside I felt like we could’ve pulled out the win if we would’ve served smarter. We passed pretty well. That last game we were putting the ball in the air where we could do something with it. We’ve got to be aggressive. I thought we played hard the whole time. The only problem I had with today was the sketchy serving as far as hitting spots. We had some big misses there.”
Lea accumulated 18 assists, two kills, four digs, a block and an ace for the Lady Warriors against Sand Rock. Garmany had five kills. Shaw came away with a kill, a dig and a block. Haygood gained four kills, eight digs, a block and an ace. Curry contributed five kills, two digs and an ace. Paul posted four digs, two aces and two assists. Givens delivered 12 digs and an assist. Gaidurgis finished with six kills, four digs, two aces and a block.
“Again, it’s one of those things where I feel it’s right there. If we can ever bust through that then we’ll be on a different level,” Rieger said. “I’m certainly not going to take away from how good Southside and Sand Rock are and how well they execute. They were hustling.”
Cherokee County travels to Ohatchee for a tri-match against Pell City on Tuesday. Sand Rock hosts area rival Collinsville for its senior night, also on Tuesday.