The final day of the Region 7-AAAAA volleyball tournament saw two local teams punch tickets to state. Cartersville continued its recent run of success by earning the No. 3 seed, and Woodland garnered …
The final day of the Region 7-AAAAA volleyball tournament saw two local teams punch tickets to state. Cartersville continued its recent run of success by earning the No. 3 seed, and Woodland garnered its first-ever playoff berth, landing the region's fourth seed.
Both teams won their opening match Saturday at Blessed Trinity to clinch spots in the Class 5A state tournament. Cartersville cruised past Cass in straight sets, allowing 10 or fewer points in each. Meanwhile, Woodland emerged victorious in a three-set thriller with Hiram, winning 25-21, 18-25, 15-12.
The Canes then topped the Wildcats 25-21 25-20 to pick up the third seed.
"I'm really excited," Cartersville first-year head coach Alicen Pearson said. "I did hope for more of a first or second region finish, but under the circumstances, I'm satisfied with the third place. They came together as a team and adjusted when they needed to."
Playing without three members of the team currently in quarantine for COVID-19 exposure, the Canes came out motivated to earn a pair of wins to set up a Tuesday meeting with Region 6-AAAAA runner-up Villa Rica.
"They came out with a really good mindset, especially considering they got word [Friday] about our senior captain setter Macey [Vaughn] being quarantined," Pearson said. "It took some major adjustments last minute. They came together and did what they needed to do. It went really well."
The Wildcats, who downed Cass before a loss to Blessed Trinity in Thursday's opening rounds of the tournament, wound up dropping a hard-fought match to its rivals to end the day. However, Woodland head coach David Condon could have no complaints after seeing his players achieve a historic moment for the program.
"It's nice for me, as a coach, but I really appreciate how much the players wanted it," Condon said. "They played their tail ends off, and they played with a lot of emotion. They did a great job of giving everything they could. They knew it was an opportunity. ...
"I'm proud for them. They were so excited; they were so pumped. They know they're a part of school history."
Woodland, which will travel Tuesday to Region 6 champion North Springs for the opening round, was once again led Saturday by seniors Sydney Molinaro and Emmalee Cigainero. Molinaro, a first-team all-region selection, totaled 14 kills, 14 digs, six aces, four assists and three blocks. A second-team honoree, Cigainero 18 digs and four aces.
"Those two girls coach just as much as I do," Condon said in complimenting the duo. "They coach in practice just as much as I do. They coach during matches just as much as I do.
"Sometimes during timeouts, I let them do the talking. Sometimes hearing it from them, when they're presenting that much leadership, is just as important — if not more important — than hearing it from me."
For Cartersville, which beat Hiram and fell to Calhoun Thursday, Ailee England put together a solid day, finishing with a team-high 13 kills. Mia Nicklas, a second-team all-region choice, led the defense with eight total digs. She also contributed six aces against Cass. Lily Gochee did an impressive job filling in at setter, contributing 10 aces and 30 assists.
Cartersville will hope to see some of its less experienced players step up next week, when their roster will still be depleted. Then again, this is the type of situation coaches like Pearson have been reluctantly planning for all season.
"We started off with a big team, because we had a lot of strong players," she said. "In tournaments and on other days, I've worked in the other players, just in case anything ridiculous like this happened with COVID. ... We have prepared for it.
"This is not the first time these girls have been on the court. It's not the first time they've been in that position. I feel like they're comfortable."