Without a feeder program at the middle school level, Cass likely served as inspiration for fellow county schools Adairsville and Woodland, who are in the same predicament.
After a six-win season in 2010, the Lady Colonels finished 17-16 last year, matching Cartersville with the most wins in the county. Cass, however, was the only local team to end the season with a winning mark.
So, just what are the chances the Lady Colonels catch lightning in a bottle two years in a row?
“We’re expecting to have a pretty good year again,” second-year coach Jamie Horton said. “ … We lost a good bit. I think we lost … five or six seniors that had been playing a lot of volleyball. The good thing is we still got about four or five kids that have all played varsity volleyball before. We have three girls that have played [club volleyball].
“We’re looking to kind of build upon what we started last year, so we’ll see what happens.”
Cass rode an 8-2 start last year — which included an upset of the playoff-bound Lady Purple Hurricanes — to its best finish in several years. A similar beginning in 2012 could once again put the Lady Colonels on track for another such season.
But, Horton seems more concerned with his team’s ending, even if a good start would be a boost for a team replacing quite a few leaders.
“That’s kind of what we’re shooting for this year is the end of the season because being in the area we’re in, it’s not quite as bad as it’s been,” he laughed.
Despite the good vibrations felt from Cass’ play in Horton’s first season as head coach, it still didn’t produce a playoff berth in an unforgiving Area 7-AAAA.
No longer in Area 7, the Lady Colonels — who are now in Area 6-AAAA — will not see the likes of volleyball powerhouse Pope, a three-time defending state champion, nor will it face other stalwarts like Sequoyah, Creekview and Sprayberry.
It doesn’t guarantee anything, but Horton can feel better about his team’s chances after winning two of seven area matches last season.
“In years past … when you played the Popes and Sequoyahs, teams like that, you had to tell the girls before you stepped out on the floor, ‘We’re here to get better.’ … That was tough, especially for the kids,” Horton acknowledged. “[Now] we can go out there every single time and say we have a chance. … I think the kids are really looking forward to the season, and we have a lot of aspirations and a lot of goals this year.”
Cass’ new area mates include Alexander, Cedartown, Therrell, Carrollton, Washington and River Ridge. Neither of those teams eclipsed the Lady Colonels’ win total last year, and only River Ridge cleared the bar in terms of double-digit wins.
Their new area may not be as big of an obstacle as in recent seasons, but the Lady Colonels will be without two crucial players to its resurgence last year — all-county setter Maggie Buffington and all-county outside hitter Silken Solomon — but Amber Bowen, another all-county selection, returns.
Bowen, a right-side hitter a season ago, may have been the best female athlete in Bartow during the last school year, earning selections to the volleyball, basketball and track and field all-county teams. Though playing volleyball for the first time last fall, the 5-foot-9 Bowen utilized her athletic talents to play very aggressively, and with some more seasoning, she should be better as a senior.
The summer hasn’t allowed for much time on the volleyball court for Bowen, now an outside hitter.
“She’s played a lot of basketball this summer, and she hasn’t played a lot of volleyball,” Horton noted.
Though a key cog, Bowen is just one of Cass’ talented outside hitters — the other being fellow senior Brooklyn Whitner, an honorable mention pick for the all-county team last season. Whitner is a three-year starter for the Lady Colonels.
“At the outside hitter position, we are pretty well covered. We probably have two of the more athletic players in the county playing on the outside, which is a good thing,” Horton said.
Senior Chelsea Morris and junior Janee Callahan are the team’s middle hitters. Morris is one of the club players on Cass’ team. Madi Cornett, a senior right-side hitter, also plays club volleyball in the offseason.
“As far as having hitters, we’re pretty well set,” Horton said. “We’re pretty athletic [and] pretty tall. They’re all 5-8, 5-9 to 6 feet.”
In terms of perhaps volleyball’s most important position, that spot will be filled by a second-year player who will be charged with setting up the team’s offense and tempo.
“The setter’s kind of like the quarterback on [a volleyball team],” Horton admitted. “Lacey Furrow … she’s a 10th grader. [She’s] very athletic. As far as being athletic, she’s right up there with Amber.”
Furrow will have great responsibility, but Horton has no doubt about what she will be able to provide for his team.
“She’s worked on her hands, gotten ’em better. We’re counting on her,” coach Horton added. “We hope by the end of the year she’s grown up and we’re ready to go.
“[We’re focused on] just developing throughout the year and trying to get better as the year goes on.”
Cass opened its season Monday and returns to the court Friday for a road match with the Lady Tigers, a county rival.
Cass Lady Colonels
Amber Bowen, outside hitter, senior; Janee Callahan, middle hitter, junior; Madi Cornett, right-side hitter, senior; Lacey Furrows, setter, sophomore; Zackaria Linley, defensive specialist, junior; Chelsea Morris, middle hitter, senior; Ashanti Solomon, outside hitter/right-side hitter, junior; Shakira Whitfield, defensive specialist, senior; Brooklyn Whitner, outside hitter, senior.
Katie ???, sophomore, right-side hitter
2012 Season Schedule (Home matches are in all caps)
(13) PEPPERELL AND EAST PAULDING; (16) Adairsville; (18) At the Rock (Rockmart tournament); (21) Model and Calhoun; (23) Cartersville and Woodland; (28) Pepperell and Armuchee; (30) ADAIRSVILLE AND SONORAVILLE
(4) MODEL; (5) CEDARTOWN AND CARROLLTON; (11) Therrell (host) and Washington; (22) Cartersville (play date); (25) River Ridge (host) and Alexander; (29) Bartow County Championship at Adairsville
(11) AREA 7-AAAA TOURNAMENT; (13) AREA 7-AAAA TOURNAMENT