Etowah volleyball team flying high with 12-2 mark
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
August 31, 2014 01:03 AM | 2920 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Helping lead the Etowah volleyball team to its 12-2 start have been the group of, back row from left, Sydney Hotaling, Natalie Lucco, Paige Horton and Madeline Gilmer. Front row are Nicole Ferris, left, and Kylie Blanton.
<Br>Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
Helping lead the Etowah volleyball team to its 12-2 start have been the group of, back row from left, Sydney Hotaling, Natalie Lucco, Paige Horton and Madeline Gilmer. Front row are Nicole Ferris, left, and Kylie Blanton.
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
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Etowah is in the midst of a season unlike any other Kim Robertson has witnessed while coaching volleyball at the school.

The Lady Eagles, who have started the season 12-2, enjoyed a rare Saturday off as opponents were hard to come by leading into the Labor Day weekend.

“In the seven years I have been there, we have never started this well,” Robertson said. “We have a lot of talent. I’m really, really excited about these girls, most of which will be returning players next year.”

Etowah opened the season at the Sequoyah Classic, where it lost just one match. The Lady Eagles narrowly defeated Mount Vernon Presbyterian in pool play, but they went on to dominate Sonoraville, Norcross and Northgate. Even traditional powerhouse Pope fell to the Lady Eagles during that tournament, 25-16, 25-16.

It wasn’t until the semifinals that Etowah was tripped up by East Coweta after winning the first set of the best-of-three match.

The following week, Etowah added wins over Kennesaw Mountain, Kell and Allatoona. At a North Cobb play date, the Lady Eagles beat South Forsyth, North Gwinnett and Norcross. Their lone loss came against the host Lady Warriors, by a 23-25, 25-11, 15-12 margin.

In its most recent match, Etowah beat River Ridge, helping the Lady Eagles gain consideration as one of the top teams in Class AAAAAA.

Robertson said Etowah doesn’t have a secret weapon. Rather, it just has a variety of weapons. Should one player misfire, there’s another one ready to step up.

“We had a good nucleus of this team return from last year and, hopefully, that will help us jell together for a great season,” Robertson said.

There are also two freshmen on the roster in Jessie Cohen and Nicole Ferris.

Cohen is the younger sister of Courtney Cohen, a former Cherokee Tribune Player of the Year who recently concluded her college career at Troy. The 6-foot Ferris is one of the tallest members of the team and brings a strong service game — something Robertson said she hasn’t had from a middle hitter in a while.

Much of the talent comes from the junior class. Setter Sydney Hotaling, all-area outside hitter Natalie Lucco, and outside hitter Paige Horton get the work done up front. Leading the defense are liberos Madeline Gilmer and Casey Miller.

Courtney Shockey and middle hitter Kylie Blanton also bring some height, with Blanton leading the team in blocks.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Devon Holden and Leah Brown, juniors Brandi Houser and Sierra Smith and sophomore Taylor Gilkey.

Robertson said the strength of the program can also be seen at the lower levels of the program. The junior varsity team is 8-0, while the freshman team is 7-0.

The players finding success at those levels are those who will be filling in the ranks over the next two or three years.

“I think volleyball players generally come in cycles, as far as the talent level,” Robertson said. “This just happens to be a great combination for our girls. I’ve been able to incorporate a lot of these girls in their freshmen and sophomore years onto varsity, and they get the experience playing together year after year, and, hopefully, it was be a success for us. The future looks bright.”

Robertson wouldn’t be surprised if many of the players now at the varsity level end up playing in college.

“I definitely see that potential,” Robertson said. “I know these young ladies, Natalie especially, want to. There are several that would choose to do that if they want to. Kylie Blanton is already getting some looks this year.

While the Lady Eagles have faced or watched several area opponents in tournaments or play dates, they won’t open the Area 5AAAAAA part of their schedule until Sept. 9. In the meantime, they will participate in next weekend’s Lovett Block Party, opening with area rival Roswell on Friday.

Robertson said the purpose of playing in several tournaments is to prepare for area play.

“We are in one of the toughest areas with Walton, Roswell, Pope, Lassiter — our county rival Woodstock is in there, too,” she said. “It’s a tough area to come out of, but, fortunately, they take five out of our area to go to the (state) tournament.”
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