The Cartersville volleyball program will spend a significant portion of the season traveling around Northwest Georgia before ever playing on its home court.
It’s not because new head coach Alicen Pearson believes in a baptism-by-fire approach. It’s just a sign of the times.
As Pearson was preparing for her first season in charge of the Canes, she had the added struggles of dealing with constant changes caused by COVID-19. That led to a scheduling fluke in which Cartersville spends nearly all of August outside of The Storm Center.
Then again, with recently released restrictions regarding the bench area and other game day rituals handed down by the GHSA, Pearson is fine with letting those other programs be the canary in the coal mine.
“Filling August was kind of difficult, because a lot of school systems pushed [matches] back or canceled them,” she said of the schedule. “It was not intentional [being on the road so much], but I think it will be OK, because we can see how other schools run.”
In some ways, though, Pearson is looking forward to seeing how her players handle the adversity of being on the road for much of the early part of the season.
One of the first nights the Canes are set to be at home is Sept. 8. That’s when Cartersville will open up Region 7-AAAAA play with a tri-match against Bartow County rivals Cass and Woodland.
“The first month, I just hope to see how they play on the court, how they adjust to other teams,” Pearson said of her players. “It’s hard to mimic how other teams play. … So just seeing how they adjust to that.”
Adjusting will be a major theme for the Canes this season.
The players are already having to adjust to a new coach and a new region, which will also feature defending Class 4A champion Blessed Trinity, Calhoun and Hiram. They have been asked to adjust almost weekly to different rules and restrictions governing workouts and practices.
Even still, with the season scheduled to get underway Tuesday at South Paulding, Pearson believes her team has built up the necessary chemistry to hit the ground running.
“A lot of times when they have an error, I don’t even have to correct them,” she said. “They come together, and they solve it themselves. They are problem solving together. It makes it easy for me, because they know what to do and how to adjust.”
Some of the credit for that ability goes to the senior class. It’s not a large group. There’s just four and Pearson said only half of them are projected to be starters right now, but the individuals are clearly taking on a key leadership role.
“They kind of keep everyone level and focused,” Pearson said of the seniors. “They seem to be like the serious ones and the most knowledgeable, of course, because they’ve been out there the longest. … The seniors are very understanding, and they show the other girls where to go. They’ll go out there, even to a different position, and say, ‘Hey, do this. Try that.’ They’re leaders, for sure.”
Perhaps the most impactful of the rising seniors will be Macey Vaughn, who has been an honorable-mention pick on The Daily Tribune News All-County team each of the past two seasons. As the team’s setter, Vaughn will be tasked with helping boost a team that will be without arguably its top three hitters from last year.
“I’ve always said the setter is kind of like the quarterback,” Pearson said. “They’re the leader of the team, because they run the plays. Macey definitely fills that role well. I haven’t picked captains yet, but she’ll definitely be one of my captains.”
Overall, Cartersville has a lot of hurdles to overcome in hopes of achieving a season comparable to the past few the Canes have put together. At this point, Pearson and Co. are just ready to start having matches — no matter where they are played.
“I would say, we’re ready,” Pearson said. “They’re ready to play. I know that.”