The Lady Colts missed last year’s Class 3A state tournament. Getting there is the goal for this year’s squad.
Their returning talent includes a trio of juniors — Macey Fossett, who switches from outside hitter to setter, and outside hitters Erin Orem and Gabby Henderson. Fossett’s switch is the result of Rebecca Bailey deciding not to return this season, but Lady Colts coach Julie Norton said Fossett has “natural talent” in the sport that allows her to be effective at numerous spots on the court.
“She has that competitor’s attitude where she likes to be in control of the play and likes to make sure that ball will not drop,” Norton said. “I need a setter who will make sure to get to the second ball. Not to mention, she has nice, soft hands.
“Erin and Gabby will be big passers and consistent. They want to be finishers and be the ones putting the ball down. ... Gabby has played a season of club volleyball and has become considerably more confident on the front row and back row.”
The Lady Colts finished 13-27 overall last season and were fifth at the Area 5-3A tournament, one spot shy of making state.
Norton said the team’s returning experience should help them make that jump this year.
“It’s a huge goal,” she said. “The girls really want to get to at least the first round. Obviously, every team wants to go as far as you can. It’s the third year (of competition for the program) and I told them we have no excuses. We’re a true varsity team now.”
For three straight years, the Lady Catamounts’ state tournament run has ended in the second round. Last season they were swept by Woodland-Henry.
While improving on the postseason push would be good, with Dalton’s offseason losses including the graduation of standout starters Susan Meinders (hitter) and Kara Pendley (setter) — plus other contributors, like hitter Mollie Martin — it will take work just to get back to that phase of state this season.
“Whenever you lose six seniors, it’s a rebuilding process,” Lady Cats coach Joey Wills said.
“Over the summer and in tryouts, Hannah has stepped up her leadership and will be really important to us this season,” Wills said. “Of course, we want to progress as far as we can, but what I’m after, particularly in the early part of the season, is how we work together and gel.”
The Lady Cats went 23-16 and were Area 7-4A runners-up in 2012. Wills believes the competition in Area 7-4A is wide open and only getting stronger with the emergence of Northwest, which made a surprising run late last season.
“Of course, we want to perform the best as we can,” Wills said. “It’s still going to be a very tough area. ... We can’t overlook anybody and will have to work hard in every match.”
Dalton begins its season Thursday with matches against Coahulla Creek and Northwest. Play starts at 5 p.m.