"We're really excited that we made it this year," said Lady Purple Hurricanes senior Emily Williams. "I think the team is really close. We all mesh really well and that's real important on the court. We're really close on and off the court, and I think that definitely helped us make it as far as we have."
Lyndsey Jones, another senior, also extolled the virtues of having a close-knit group.
"This year I think everybody plays a part. We all do our own part well and we are closer as a team," Jones said. "We do a lot of things together -- on the court and off the court -- and that makes us stronger as a team."
That bond could pay dividends for Cartersville (16-14), Area 6-AAA's No. 2 seed, in the state tournament.
"In order for us to win any games in the state tournament, we're gonna have to do what we did to get here, which was play as a complete team," Lady Canes coach Scott Busby said. "All of the players have really bought into the team concept and our game plans, and they've accepted all roles and they're willing to do whatever it takes to make us better.
"They've really become a cohesive unit over the course of the season."
Cartersville may have taken that route out of necessity after losing six seniors from last year's team, including three Daily Tribune News' All-County Volleyball Team selections -- player of the year Alexandria Clyburn, Caitlin Conduff and Amanda Lowenstein.
"We don't have ... a star," Williams, an outside hitter, said. "We're all decent all the way around. We don't have ... somebody who's just ... amazing, like always set the ball to her.
"Our talent's evenly distributed."
That talent was on display a couple of weeks ago when the Lady Canes beat Cedartown and Allatoona to advance to the area championship, where they lost to the latter in a rematch.
Busby said he doesn't know much about his team's first-round opponent, the Lady Titans (5-11), other than that they are located in Riverdale.
"I've tried to find information, there's nothing out there," he said of Area 5-AAA's No. 3 seed. "Outside of that (school location), it doesn't tell us a whole lot. So right now, we're just preparing, building on our strengths and trying to secure ... a few weak points we've had and that Allatoona exposed in the finals."
The most glaring weakness against the Lady Buccaneers came in the deciding fifth game, after the Lady Canes had rallied from two sets down to tie it at 2-all.
"Our serve-receive is actually what fell apart, our passing," Busby said. "And they'd passed well all day."
Cartersville, he said, has worked to correct that deficiency.
"They've come in and really made an emphasis to getting your feet in a good position, playing the ball out in front and to really execute and make good passes," Busby said. "And we've had three girls that have really focused on that, and they're the ones that had the most trouble in the area championship."
The Lady Canes enter the state tournament in pretty good shape, their coach said, healing minor injuries over a two-grace period from matches.
Their mental state seems to be intact, too.
"Mentally, I think we're in a really good place. That attitude's sort of light but intense," Busby said. "The girls are having fun and laughing, and we always play our best whenever we're joking and having a good time."
Plus, Cartersville will be playing in front of a decidedly purple-friendly crowd.
"That (will) be real exciting, it (will) make up for the lack of home games we had this year," said Williams of the Lady Canes' three home dates.
"We're hoping for a pretty good crowd. The girls have been recruiting their friends and family to come in," Busby said. "Everybody plays well when you have home court advantage, and the crowd is loud and especially in your favor. It helps get them pumped up."
Jones expects that crowd to be an additive to what will already be a good performance from Cartersville.
"I think if we have a crowd, we'll do great," she said. "We're going to do great (anyway), but as long as we have people supporting us, we do good in front of a crowd."
Cartersville and Drew get their match under way at 10 a.m. Saturday.