“The more people we get to cheer for us, the better it will be for our girls,” said Spradley, the day before the Lady Canes (25-14) were to travel to Roswell to play the Blessed Trinity Lady Titans. “This time around we will be playing away from the Storm Center, in a gym that we’ve never played in before.”
And against the Lady Titans, who just happen to be 51-2 overall, 10-0 in area competition, and nationally-ranked.
Their best-of-five series begins at 5:30 p.m.
Even though Lady Titans’ coach Paul Stevens was hesitate to answer the question, “are you that good?” based on their overall record, he did admit that “yes, we do have a strong team.”
“Depending on what you read, we are ranked 72nd in the country in one poll, and 200 in another,” he said. “To me, the polls only show that somebody out there recognizes our overall success this season. Other than that, the polls are meaningless. Winning the state championship is much more important than how we are perceived nationally.”
Blessed Trinity’s only two losses of the season were against Hoover (Ala.) High School and the Region 4-AAAAA’s McIntosh Lady Chiefs. In their first round match of this year’s state tournament, Blessed Trinity easily defeated North Oconee, 25-14, 25-7, 25-8.
“We know they are that good,” Spradley said. “Which means that we have to keep from being intimidated before the match even begins, play relaxed and have fun.”
The Lady Canes will also need to avoid falling behind early, and quickly adjust to the Lady Titans’ game plan.
Which is to key on Katie O’Connor, Cartersville’s 6-1 middle hitter and blocker, who had nine kills in her team’s 25-8, 25-5 and 25-6 win over Jackson at home last Tuesday.
“We’ve never played Cartersville before, but we’ve heard a lot about her (O’Connor) in that she is a great middle blocker,” said Stevens, who has guided Blessed Trinity to the Class AAA state championship in 2006 and 2010 during his 10-year run there. “We’ll have to adjust our game plan to make sure that she doesn’t hurt us, and also defend well against their other players.”
Connor is fully aware of what is expected of her by her coach and teammates, and knows full well that Blessed Trinity’s defense will go all out to stop her.
“I’m just going to have to play smart and avoid hitting the ball into their blockers,” said O’Connor during a break at Monday’s practice. “
Coach Spradley expects Blessed Trinity to counter O’Connor’s presence at the net with double and triple blockers.
“We will do well as a team If stay focused, make good passes and win our serves,” she said.
If not, then it will be a long drive back home for the team and all the fans who traveled south.