CENTRE – Not one time this volleyball season has Cherokee County High School played with its starting lineup due to various injuries.
Lady Warrior coach Tiffany Rieger has been forced to play younger girls in spots they’re not used to, but on Monday evening against Class 4A, Area 9 rival White Plains and Spring Garden, there were glimpses of the Lady Warriors’ youth coming of age.
Cherokee County scrapped out a sweep of White Plains 25-18, 25-23, 25-22 for just their second win of the season. In the nightcap, Spring Garden cruised to a 25-9 win in the first set, then battled the Lady Panthers a little closer in the second, but still fell 25-21.
Spring Garden (15-2) also swept White Plains 25-11, 25-11.
“That’s one thing we’ve been talking to them about: persevere,” Rieger said. “The scorebook doesn’t always look good, but these young ones have gotten better and better. There have been times where we’ve dug ourselves a hole in serve-receive passing, but they’re coming around to learning how to overcome that and keep their heads in the game, not just give up. I think they’re slowly but surely starting to click, and it’s a good time for that.”
Before the season started, Rieger lost libero Madison Leonard, setter/right side Kenzie Hunter, middle hitters Ella and Raegan Garmany, and outside hitter Anna Walker. Leonard and Raegan Garmany are out for the season. Hunter returned in a limited role on the front row Monday evening.
“It breaks my heart, because I expected us to be pretty decent this year,” Rieger said. “We’re just trying to do the best we can and try to teach the girls life lessons along the way. We have no control over everybody getting hurt. You’ve just got to adjust and keep going.”
Speaking of adjusting, the Lady Warriors did some of that on Monday. They trailed in the third set against White Plains 22-17 before going on an 8-0 run to finish the set and the match.
Emilee Paul posted six kills and had an assist. Vivian Connell contributed five kills, a block and an assist. Macy Lea collected nine assists, four aces and a kill. Libby Curry and Nevaeh Gaidurgis both had three aces and two kills. Karlee Jolly tallied two digs and two aces. Aubrie Abernathy finished with two aces and an assist.
In the second set against Spring Garden, Cherokee County led 16-15 and was tied at 21 before the Lady Panthers closed things out.
“I think they came out with a little bit more energy, wanting to defend their home court,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said of Cherokee County in the second set. “You could tell they played a little more energized. We turned around and gave them 10 passing errors in that one set right there. That made it to their advantage. Luckily they served a couple of balls out when they had momentum that kind of hurt them and helped us sustain and carry forward.
“I was glad we pulled it out and won. I’d have been very upset if we had lost that set after the way we handled the first set. It’s something to learn from. You can learn from every match you play. It gave me an opportunity to coach them right there at the end.”
The Lady Panthers didn’t need much coaching in the White Plains match. They jumped out to a 21-7 advantage on the Lady Wildcats in the first set and a held a 22-9 edge in the second.
“Why can’t you be perfect one day?” Austin joked. “I guess it’s give a little, take a little.
“Our first couple of games against White Plains and the first game (against Cherokee County), I thought we were very clean and efficient,” Austin said. “We tried a couple of other servers in that one (against Cherokee County), trying to get some girls some confidence to serve. We’ve gotten in some situations lately where we’ve run out of subs and we’ve had to leave some girls on the floor who haven’t been serving. I’m trying to balance the serving rotation to where we get in that we feel comfortable serving.
“We missed some serves that kept taking momentum away from us. That’s why we’re doing it, so we can get into that.”
Against White Plains, Abbey Steward collected 13 assists and an ace. Neely Welsh posted five kills and a dig. Suzie Carter also contributed five kills. Abbie Woods delivered six aces and a dig. Alle Jennings added three kills and an ace. Timi Scoggin finished with a pair of aces.
Jennings and Carter both contributed seven kills for the Lady Panthers against Cherokee County. Jennings also posted an ace. Steward added 16 assists and a pair of aces. Welsh had two kills and two aces. Woods came away with three aces, and Maggie Jarrett finished with a kill.
Connell collected three kills for the Lady Warriors. Paul posted six digs, a kill and an ace. Abernathy added five aces and two assists. Lea contributed four assists, two kills and an ace. Jolly managed four digs and a kill. Curry came away with two kills and a dig. Hunter finished with an assist.