CEDAR BLUFF – The defining moment last volleyball season for the Cedar Bluff Lady Tigers was their Class 1A sub-regional match against Appalachian. The Lady Eagles had taken Cedar Bluff the distance and had built a 13-7 advantage in the fifth set.
Cedar Bluff rallied behind the setting of Erin McFry to take a 16-14 victory that sent them back to the North Super Regional in Huntsville.
“When you’re down 13-7 in the fifth set, it’s pretty much over at that point,” Cedar Bluff coach Lyndsey Barker Mullins said. “(Assistant Coach) Mandy (Walker) still jokes with me today ‘I could’ve really kicked you in the butt for not calling a timeout.’ In the moment, I never felt the need to call a timeout. It never crossed my mind. Being able to play teams that made us play, that made us endure a long match, that’s where that paid off. Erin came in to serve and she served us out 16-14 in the fifth set.”
If the Lady Tigers are to have a defining moment during the 2021 season like they did last October, someone else will have to step up and provide it.
Yes, the Lady Tigers do have four seniors returning to their lineup, but even several of them are playing new positions in 2021.
“Are we seasoned? Not at the positions we’re going to be playing this year. That’s the best way to put it,” Mullins said.
Seniors Jordyn Walker and Maggie Clowdis are the two Lady Tigers who have been with Mullins on varsity the longest, but Walker will be moving from libero to the left side. Clowdis will join Walker on the left side after setting for Cedar Bluff last season.
Another setter from last year, senior Emma Haney, moves over to help anchor the middle along with sophomore Lacie Roer. Roer is moving up from the Lady Tiger junior varsity squad.
Setting for the Lady Tigers this season will be junior Haley Allen, who has never set before, along with eighth grader Rylie Walker.
Junior Mattie Payne takes over for Jordyn Walker at libero. Payne could also see time on the back row.
Gaylesville transfer Natalie Baty, a junior, and freshman Caley Bruce could play on the right side. Senior Shaya Satcher, juniors Bre Satcher and Lacie Smith, and sophomore Graceland Benton are expected to provide the Lady Tigers depth.
“We’re all new,” Mullins said. “It was sort of a rebuilding year last year, but this year to me is more of a rebuilding year than last year, just because of our inexperience that we do have on the floor. But is there potential? Yes, there is. They all have potential.”
As expected with anyone getting used to a new position, Mullins said some of her players have been frustrated with themselves. She said all they need is just a little more court experience in their new spots.
“We lack confidence, but again, that comes with inexperience on the floor,” she said. “A lot of these girls never played the game as fast as what this game moves. They get frustrated because they’re never ready. The ball comes over and they’re like ‘I wasn’t ready for that ball.’ That’s the stuff we’re working on right now to progress into the season.”
To help with that transition, Mullins and the Lady Tigers took advantage of the summer months.
“I think we practiced six times in June, and any time there was a play date we were playing,” she said. “We played a lot. I knew we needed to because of the inexperience we have.
“A lot of trust needs to be built with them. A lot of it is on-court experience and trust in each other to make plays. We’re not sure who’s going to do it, but that comes with playing together. I’m hoping practice these next few days will alleviate some of those issues per se.”
Even with the inexperience at different positions, that hasn’t stopped Mullins from making a challenging schedule. The Lady Tigers open their season Aug. 19 at Class 7A Gadsden City with Class 5A Boaz. They also play in-county rivals Sand Rock, Spring Garden and Cherokee County throughout the season, and compete in Class 1A, Area 13 with Gaylesville, Coosa Christian and Valley Head.
“I think if you have a challenging schedule, when you make it further into October, that’s when it starts to pay off,” Mullins said. “We may get beat by a lot of these teams, but what you don’t realize is in the process you’re getting better. It’s going to be more beneficial as we go down the line.”
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