After each team won its opening match against the Lady Tigers — Cass won 25-15, 25-16 and Cartersville won 25-17, 25-12 — both sides entered the final match hoping for a clean sweep.
The Lady Canes led throughout the first game but did not pull away till late. The Lady Colonels tied the game for a third time at 14-all before a driven Cartersville bunch scored 11 of the game’s final 13 points.
The second game slipped away from Cass much sooner, with the Lady Canes scoring 11 unanswered points to extend their lead to 19-7, a stretch that drew a couple of timeouts from the Lady Colonels’ bench.
Cass got within 10 points but no closer as Cartersville followed up a 25-16 Game 1 win with a 25-13 victory in Game 2.
“We have spent the past week working on our serve-receive [game] and our defensive rotation because we wanted redemption when we came back in here today,” said first-year Lady Canes coach Camille Spradley, whose team lost 25-18, 25-13 to Cass last Tuesday on the Lady Wildcats’ home court. “We just got our girls fired up, and they went after it.”
The Lady Canes served up more than 20 aces on the night, led by Janezka Cruz, who had nearly half of that total and helped her team pull away from the Lady Colonels in the second game.
Of Cruz’s play, Spradley said, “Janezka is one of those players if you can light a fire under her, she’s gonna go in and do it. She had a slow week, feeling sick and not feeling too well, so she came in and she gave it 100 percent so we’re definitely proud of her — that she was able to push through being sick and come in and play as well as she did.”
Cass coach Jamie Horton said his team played well early but made some errors late.
“I thought we played pretty well, especially the first match [and] the first game of the second match. Against Cartersville I thought we played decently, made a couple of mistakes that if we clean up, we probably come away with what we want, but we made the mistakes and we kind of paid for it,” Horton said. “In the second game, we got behind and I don’t know what we were doing at that point.”
The first-year Lady Colonels coach, a former assistant, said his message to his team after the match was “get to work.”
“Bottom line, that’s what we’re gonna have to do, is go back to the drawing board … maybe try some new things,” Horton continued. “We just didn’t pass the ball real well tonight. If you can’t pass the ball, you can’t hit the ball, and we’ve got enough hitters to hit the ball and do stuff like that. We just didn’t do a real good job of that tonight.”
While Horton faulted his team’s execution in its loss, Adairsville coach Jessica Rivers was none too pleased with her team’s mindset in its two losses, even if the Lady Tigers appear much more competitive than a year ago.
“I want to see hustle; I want to see effort. A lot of times when we get down, the girls just drop their heads and stop. I don’t want to see that anymore. I’ve told ’em that they’ve gotta stay in the game, keep their heads up and play through it,” said Rivers, whose team began the year with a pair of wins after going winless last season. “The girls did not play with the intensity that we had [in] our first game at Rome and I’ve told ’em that — that we’ve gotta get that intensity back. Hopefully, they’ll pick it up. Today they looked very flat. Even though we did look better than we did last year, it still hurts to see ’em drop down from what we saw at the beginning of the season.”
At this early juncture of the season, each team seems to be a work in progress, making the impending Bartow County Championships on Sept. 24 a date for volleyball fans to circle — especially if the match, which is being held at Woodland, reaches the intensity supplied by the rabid Cass fans at Tuesday’s match.
The Lady Canes, coming off an Elite Eight run in last year’s state playoffs, hope to be playing much better by late September, as do all the local teams.
“We’re communicating a lot more. They’re starting to get pumped up about everything they’re doing on the court. They’re being more supportive and vocal; they’re backing each other up,” Spradley said. “I’m looking forward to a really good season. If we can keep this up, we shouldn’t have a problem.”
Cartersville’s next scheduled match is a home date Friday with North Paulding and Douglas County. Adairsville is also scheduled to play a home match, on Thursday against Armuchee, while Cass’ next scheduled match is Thursday at Paulding County.