After cruising through the regular season and region tournament, the Cartersville volleyball team wants to make some noise in the state tournament — and is talented enough to do so.
The Lady Canes, a No. 1 seed, will host Chestatee today at the Storm Center in the first round of state at 5:30 p.m.
They’ve already got some hardware this year with a region championship, won last week, but the Lady Canes will be looking for more.
Coach Dutch Cothran’s team was ranked No. 9 in Class 4A in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s final regular-season poll.
Cartersville rampaged through its region, not dropping a game there all year and sweeping Chapel Hill in three sets last Thursday to take the area crown.
The Lady Canes finished 26-3, losing to Northside-Columbus and Northwest Whitfield, two teams ranked ahead of them in Class 4A, and to Lassiter, ranked No. 7 in Class 7A.
Chestatee, meanwhile, played in perhaps the toughest region in Class 4A, one that had Blessed Trinity and Marist, the top two teams in the classification, according to the AJC.
As such, the Lady Eagles, despite finishing 13-26, might not be quite the pushover that some No. 4 seeds are.
“It’s one of those things where, some years you get a region’s fourth-place team and they’re not very good, and then some years you get a fourth-place team who comes from a really tough region who’s actually going to be pretty decent,” Cothran said. “We don’t really know what to expect.”
With that being said, though, Cartersville is expected to get past the first round, and will be looking to some later matchups.
In this respect, the Lady Canes were lucky, according to Cothran.
If they beat Chestatee, they’ll have another home game against a lower seed in Round 2, although one of those potential teams is Jefferson, ranked one spot behind Cartersville at No. 10.
Two wins would take Cartersville to the Elite 8, where teams would be reseeded.
“I kind of looked to see who we were paired with, if we had the Woodwards and St. Piuses and those guys,” Cothran said. “With the brackets drawn out like they are, we’re actually pretty fortunate to be away from those guys.”
If the Lady Canes are to make it that far, they’ll rely, as they have so far this year, on the ferocious hitting of Catie Heilman.
The left-hander is the two-time defending DTN Player of the Year, and has shredded defenses with her attacks on the outside.
“We’re doing a few different sets with Catie, just changing some different tempos on the sets and doing some things there that are going to put a lot more pressure on the defense,” Cothran said.
Cartersville will also get some offense through Nedu Evans, who has broken out playing through the middle this year.
Lauren Wenzell and Elsa Evans will also get some chances for kills.
The x-factors for the Lady Canes will be setting and serving.
Cartersville lost setter Rebekah Stevens for the year with an injury, but Grace Hunter has so far picked up the slack.
“Grace Hunter is definitely going to have to play well, but I feel like when our passing and serve-receive is what it needs to be, we can put the ball in her hands, and we’ve got plenty of weapons,” Cothran said.
And with the heightened competition his team will be seeing in the state tournament, Cothran has also tried to make sure that his players’ serves can be a weapon.
“As we go through this tournament, we’re going to face some really good teams,” Cothran said. “Being able to get them out of their system with our serves is going to be a big factor for us.”
The potential for a big run is there, but to meet that potential, Cartersville will have to get through Chestatee first.
“One bad night, and we’re done,” Cothran said. “If we run into one team who’s playing just great, we’re done. Or you chase it all the way and win the state championship, you’re done. No matter how the season’s going to end, the end is near.”