The Cartersville Lady Purple Hurricanes took the crown for an 11th consecutive year Saturday as they defeated Woodland in the championship match and only lost one set in the event.
“They played great today,” Cartersville coach Camille Spradley said of her team. “They worked well together. They were communicating, they were moving well as a team and their serves were on.”
The stakes are heightened any time two county schools face off against one another. With all the schools in the same tournament, winning the county tournament is one of the season’s goals for each team.
“They were pumped because it’s a tradition of winning the Bartow County championship in 11 consecutive years for Cartersville,” Spradley said. “It’s one of those things where they do not want to lose to anybody, but especially not to hometown rival schools at all. They did not want to let that happen, so they were pumped up from the first point. They were on point and they were ready to play.”
Seniors Katie O’Connor and Kady King made the all-tournament team. O’Connor was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
“Katie O’Connor gives us a big offensive advantage. She is our big hitter. She’s our go-to hitter. She gives us a big offensive advantage and she is one of our captains, so she is one of our leaders on the court. She plays club ball so she’s used to the competitive nature of these big games. That was our game today and that’s how we scored as many points as we did, our serving and our offense,” Spradley said. “Kady King packs a lot of energy into this itty, bitty body of hers and she gets into it. She gets excited and she’s always trying to do better and trying to get her team playing perfect with her. It’s a good combination to have and then they talk well and they communicate well together.”
The Lady Canes defeated Woodland, the runner-up, by winning all three sets of the championship match, 25-9, 25-11 and 25-17.
However, Woodland defeated Cass in two sets, and Adairsville in three, to finish in a respectable second place.
“We’re very, very excited. We tell people all the time that most of our girls don’t start playing until ninth grade. We don’t play club ball or have any feeder programs or anything like that,” Woodland assistant coach Erin Kennedy said. “We have crafted a program that is holding its own and got second place. We just graduated a lot of girls from last year, so we’re extremely happy.”
Aubri Branch and Marissa Dubose made the all-tournament team for the Lady Wildcats.
Woodland came into the tournament with six wins and 21 losses, but showed how much the team has improved over the season.
“I think we tried real, real hard. We struggled a little bit with nerves. They all get bent out of shape, but I think they did a good job,” Kennedy said of her team. “They played their volleyball and that’s what we always tell them to do, to play their system and their volleyball. They really wanted to win and bring it home for Woodland sports.
“Coach [David] Condon and I have coached together for five years and we are trying to manufacture a program that says it doesn’t matter how many coaches you have or how much money you get, it’s all about dedication.”
One of the storylines of the event was the development of the Adairsville program. The Lady Tigers came into the tournament with the best record of the four schools, 19-7, and the best chance at making a run into the state playoffs.
Unfortunately for head coach David Adams, his team came up just short in matches against Cartersville and Woodland.
“We felt, coming into this, it was wide open. It was anybody’s tournament,” Adams said. “So we were motivated and we’re sure every team out here was motivated because bragging rights are on the line. To come that close and just not quite get there, it’s frustrating. All you can say is, ‘Wait until next year.’”
Adairsville did give Cartersville its toughest match of the tournament. The Lady Canes won the first set by a score of 26-24. Adairsville took the second set, 26-24. Cartersville came out strong in the final set, however, and won by a score of 15-7.
“Anytime you win and lose close games, you always nitpick yourself to death about what you could have done differently. The old saying goes, ‘You would rather get blown out than lose in a close one,’” Adams said. “It’s frustrating for the girls because we’re basically just scrappy, but we will hit the floor and knock you over to get the ball. You lay it all out on the line and then you lose these close heartbreakers.”
Woodland narrowly defeated Adairsville as well. After Woodland took the first set by a score of 25-9, the Lady Tigers stormed back and won 11-25. However, in the set that would ultimately decided who finished in second place, it was the Lady Wildcats who prevailed in a close 15-13 finish.
“We just won our 20th game for the first time ever in Adairsville history. This is a great team. Sometimes the record doesn’t reflect it but sometimes we have to remember just to be satisfied,” Adams said. “We’re 20-9. That’s still the best we’ve ever done at Adairsville. So they’ve accomplished great things.”
Cass has improved this season, but did not have a great showing Saturday. The team lost in two sets to Woodland and Adairsville before being eliminated.
Adairsville is still in a solid position to make the playoffs. Cartersville, on the other hand, has its hands full in the next couple of weeks.
“I feel like we should be playing at a higher level than what we’re playing. It’s not that we’re not capable of playing like that. We have the talent to do it, but for some reason it’s just not all working out,” Spradley said. “We played well in our out-of-area schedule, but in our area schedule we haven’t played well at all because we’re in last place. We’re going to have to get mentally tough for our area tournament, so I’m hoping that these big wins we’ve picked up in the last couple of weeks give us the momentum and energy we need to do that.
“We’ve been playing really well lately so we just waited a little bit late in the season to turn it on. We still have a lot of volleyball to play in a short amount of time.”
Cartersville still has six matches remaining in the season to make up some ground.
Adairsville also has a few matches remaining and currently sits in fourth place in the area standings.
“We still have most of our goals in play,” Adams said. “This one got away from us, but we can still make the state tournament and we still have a lot left to play for.”