The Lady Warriors ended the 2012-13 campaign with a 29-2 record, a perfect 17-0 mark against Region 5AAAAAA teams and, at one point, won 23 straight games — many of which by 30 points or more.
Despite graduating five seniors, the team was set to return a solid core, including Cherokee Tribune Player of the Year Aunesha Williams.
In the offseason, however, everything changed.
Williams and her twin sister, Audrisha, moved out of the county and are now playing at McEachern High School. Another underclassman who logged significant time last season, Sydney Pefanis, transferred to North Forsyth.
Suddenly, Cherokee coach Matt Cates found that his cupboard was a bit empty.
But instead of dwelling on the losses, Cates went to work with his remaining players. He also added some new talent and was pleased with the progress made by some freshmen who were already in the program.
Jordan Cox is the only senior on the roster, while sophomore Sydney Ross will also play a large role.
Cates plans to look at to those two players, who have spent a couple of years in the program, to show the newcomers how the Lady Warriors plays ball.
Now in his 14th season at Cherokee, Cates said his roster might be young, but they are a better team, despite the losses.
“This group is doing a good job working hard and looking forward,” Cates said.
Cherokee opened its season Friday with a Region 5AAAAAA game at Etowah and won’t play many non-region games the winter break.
Looking at the region, Cates sees Etowah as the team to beat, but he was quick to admit that, in the past, he’s been able to put together a good team — if his players are willing to follow his lead.
“It’s about them coming together as a team,” Cates said. “We’ll find out how good we are at that pretty quickly.”