The two teams do not have to wait for a potential matchup this season with the Lady Tigers and Lady Purple Hurricanes scheduled to play an actual match today in the first round of the playoffs at the Cartersville High Storm Center.
The Lady Canes enter as the No. 2 seed following their second consecutive runner-up finish to Allatoona in the Area 6-AAA tournament, while Ringgold, a No. 1 seed in 2010, came away with the third seed in its Area 7-AAA tournament, placing behind champion Southeast Whitfield and Dalton.
“The girls are incredibly excited as this is something that we have been working toward all season,” Cartersville coach Camille Spradley said. “They are especially looking forward to hosting the first round and having the home [court] advantage. … Our team feeds off fast-paced volleyball and loud crowds. Having our fans there [today] will push us to perform even further, and the players are looking forward to the excitement of it all.”
The Lady Canes figure to have plenty of supporters with the school celebrating homecoming this week. To avoid an early exit, though, Cartersville, 17-18, must be hitting on all cylinders against a Lady Tigers team that went 21-17 and beat their area’s runner-up two out of three times in the regular season before Saturday’s area tournament loss. Both teams lost to the only opponent they had in common this year, Darlington — twice for Ringgold and once for the Lady Canes.
“We are going into this match with the attitude that we have to execute all of our game — serving, serve-receive, defense and running a quick offense,” Spradley said. “We are continuing to work on these aspects of our game during practice … and pushing to make our game even faster. Serving and blocking will be the biggest factors for us against Ringgold.”
“We have been focusing on strengthening our serves so that our opponents feel the pressure to pass perfectly,” she continued. “We have also introduced a new offense that the team has been executing with strength. We are still looking to increase the speed of our offense and defense in order to maximize our potential on the court.”
Cartersville returns a handful of players from its rotation last year — 2011 all-area tournament team selections Jessica Boss and Janezka Cruz as well as Katie O’Connor, Kiley Perkins and Stefanie Will.
“The returning players from last year will definitely be leaders for our younger players, and they have been great role models for each other throughout the season,” Spradley said. “It always helps to have players with prior postseason experience as they can keep the younger girls focused while helping them to not become so overwhelmed during the stress of high competition.”
The Lady Tigers also will have players to look to in terms of postseason experience with 6-foot middle hitter Anna Dykes and fellow senior Jazzie Hill, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter.
One of last season’s Elite Eight participants, however, will not make it beyond the first round this year, but the Lady Canes certainly hope to give themselves a shot at repeating their success of 2010 by getting to the second round, where they would face either Area 2-AAA No. 1 seed Columbus or Area 5-AAA No. 4 seed North Atlanta.
“Our goal from day one has been to make it to the Elite Eight again this year. There were times when the girls would get discouraged, but they would just keep reminding themselves that we were working towards a specific goal and put forth even more effort during practices,” Spradley said.
“We focus on positive reinforcements during practice through game-like play. This has helped the team to become more aggressive on the court while improving execution,” she added, highlighting her team’s keys to success. “All of the players on the team have great attitudes and come to practice every day ready to work hard and give everything they have to their teammates. The close bond between the players has helped us to have fun while working through some extremely fast-paced practices. We are a family and support one another both on and off the court.”
Cartersville and Ringgold are scheduled to battle for a spot in the second round at 5:30 p.m. today in the Lady Canes’ gymnasium.