CEDAR BLUFF – It couldn’t have been a much better volleyball season last year for the Cedar Bluff Lady Tigers. They clinched a Final Four berth in Birmingham behind a solid senior group, but now those six seniors are gone, leaving head coach Lyndsey Barker Mullins to fill a lot of voids.
“It’s what happens. We had a big group and now we have to rebuild,” Mullins said. “We’re not really young per se, but we’re very inexperienced. I’ve got kids who’ve never played before who are playing on varsity. We’ve had to do a lot from ground zero, fundamental work. That’s where we still are now. We are still figuring out positions.”
Only two players from last year’s varsity squad with experience return in senior middle hitter Russell Givens and junior Jordyn Walker. Walker will be moving from libero to the outside.
Mullins said junior Maggie Clowdis is the best setter she has, but she needs her to play on the outside as well. Senior Erin McFry could also join Givens in the middle, along with freshman Lacie White.
With Clowdis needed on the outside, that opens up the Lady Tigers’ setter spot. Junior Shaya Satcher and sophomore Haley Allen are competing for the position. Mullins said freshman Alle Young is showing promise on the right side. Junior Emma Haney gives depth on the right side.
Replacing Walker at libero this season is sophomore Mattie Payne. Lacie Smith will be rotating in the back row.
“They’re going to be a fun group,” Mullins said. “A lot of people ask me ‘How’s the season going to be?’ I don’t know. We’re going to be OK. We’re going to have fun. This group’s personality is a lot different from last year’s. Last year’s group were athletes. They were business driven. They let loose and had fun sometimes, but these kids I have now, it’s fun, then it’s business. It works out because we’re not at the caliber we were last year.
“It’s kind of like we’re getting a redo. We’ve hit the reset button and it’s like ‘OK, we’ve got a fresh start.’”
Helping with the transition is the move back down from Class 2A to 1A. The Lady Tigers now compete in Area 13 along with Gaylesville, Coosa Christian and Valley Head.
“Moving down to 1A has helped tremendously,” Mullins said. “Although I think we’re going to be OK and be competitive, we’re nowhere near where we were last year. Coming down is definitely a positive. There’s not that ‘Oh my gosh we’re 2A.’ Mentally, we’re like ‘This might be OK.’”