Cartersville defeated the host Lady Wildcats 25-8, 25-16 to secure the victory.
“This is a big deal for the girls. This is probably the tournament [they want to win most],” first-year Lady Canes coach Camille Spradley said, noting the rivalry amongst players across the county. “We minimized our errors greatly. We were moving our feet, covering our hitters. They were serving really well and just communicating on the court. They came in wanting it.”
Woodland coach David Condon said his team passed as well as Cartersville but could not match the victors’ strength in hitting shots and serves.
“Their offense is strong,” Condon said of the Lady Canes. “That’s something we have to work on in the offseason.”
Cartersville, which also beat the Lady Wildcats in both teams’ second match of the tournament, began the first game of the championship match scoring eight of nine points to draw a timeout from the Woodland bench.
The brief pause in action did little to slow the Lady Canes as they finished the match by scoring 17 of the final 24 points, which included a couple of kills from Stefanie Will and an ace each from Kiley Perkins and Janezka Cruz.
Behind back-to-back aces from Will, which made it 5-1, Cartersville seemed to be off to a similar beginning in the second game, but the Lady Wildcats, displaying renewed vigor, pulled even at 6-all and managed to take their first lead of the championship match at 7-6.
The Lady Canes responded to Woodland’s run by reeling off 10 straight points. When senior Jessica Boss, who had four aces during the Cartersville stretch, went awry with her serve, her team led 16-8.
The Lady Wildcats continued to battle but could get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
County championship in tow, the Lady Canes can now begin on another one of their season goals — qualifying for the state tournament. Area 6-AAA tournament play begins Saturday.
“I think it will give us a good [focal] point,” Spradley said of the county tournament win. “It will give us some momentum [going into the area tournament].” Cartersville, which finished as runner-up in the area tournament in 2010, is looking to follow up its appearance in last year’s Elite Eight with another deep playoff run.
Woodland, which begins play in the tough Area 7-AAAA tournament Thursday, also should go in with some momentum. The Lady Wildcats opened the county tournament with a 25-16, 25-21 win over the Lady Tigers before losing to Cartersville 25-12, 25-18. Woodland went on to rebound by beating Cass in the losers’ bracket 25-20, 19-25, 15-12 — a victory that eliminated the Lady Colonels, who had the most wins of any of local team going into Saturday’s annual tournament.
“[I’m] kind of happy about that,” Condon said of his team’s win over Cass. “With Cass, Bradley Sabin was our difference maker. … Better things [happen] when she’s 100 percent. Just having her in there, period, helps.”
Sabin had missed much of the season with an injury but returned to spark the Lady Wildcats.
“My hats off to Woodland. They got a girl back from injury, and she’s a pretty good player. She makes a difference. I thought they served the ball pretty well. They definitely got better as the season went on,” Lady Colonels coach Jamie Horton said.
Cass, Horton said, played a bit up and down Saturday — losing in two sets to the Lady Canes before getting a fight to the finish from Adairsville, which it beat 25-15, 33-31.
“At times we played pretty well, I thought. Other times we weren’t real focused,” the Lady Colonels first-year coach said. “We’ve had a lot going on in the season and we’ve been moving girls around the whole year trying to find the right combination. … It’s like mismatching parts sometimes. Sometimes the parts work, sometimes they don’t, and we just got caught on one of those days where the parts didn’t quite go together.”
The Lady Tigers had to do some shuffling of their own, which worked out well as second-year coach Jessica Rivers got a spirited effort from her team.
“I’m really proud of the girls. We’ve gone through a lot of changes lately. Some of our girls have decided to skip practice and not come to the tournament today, so we had to adjust our lineup. After seeing them play today, it looked like a good team, good mixture; they really came together and hustled hard,” Rivers said. “I told them that if we play with this intensity and this level we can have a great turnout Monday and hopefully win a game and go further in the Area [6-AA/A] tournament. That’s what we’re looking for.”
In regard to Cass, Horton feels the Lady Colonels also can play well in their area tournament.
“If we go down there and play like we’re capable, there’s no telling what could happen. It just depends what happens Tuesday at Northwest Whitfield. Right now we’ll be the sixth or seventh seed, which is a little bit of improvement over last year and [then] it’s just about who you draw and who comes out and plays and who doesn’t,” he said of the Area 7-AAAA tournament. “The good thing is we’ve been playing a lot of younger players the last two to three weeks … There’s a good nucleus coming back so we’re hoping we’ll finish this year off strong and then we have something to build on next year.”
Condon is approaching the area tournament as a nothing-to-lose scenario.
“We got one of our offensive players back healthy. Let’s go in there with the mindset of spoiler. Let’s put a top seed out,” Condon said of his message to the Lady Wildcats.
Below is a list of players named to the all-tournament team.
Bartow County All-Tournament Team
Stephanie Kuhrt, Adairsville; Jessica Boss, Cartersville; Brooklyn Whitner, Cass; Johannah Nunez, Woodland.
Bartow County All-Tournament MVP
Janezka Cruz, Cartersville