The Lady Indians won just four out of 23 matches last season, but they were one win versus Chattooga in the Area 5-2A tournament away from reaching state.
This season, Murray County isn’t just shooting for the state tournament.
“Their biggest goal (is) to win area,” Murray County coach Kim Richards said, “because they felt like we have a good chance to do that. They also want to have more wins than losses.”
Returning starters are setters Alex Johnson and Heidy Cabral, both juniors, and seniors Tiffany Markey, a libero, and Keona Brinkman, an outside hitter.
“The girls are excited about how much experience we have coming back, which makes me happy,” Richards said. “After the last week of July, we had a local camp we went to. I saw how the older girls really took to the instruction, and things I tried getting out of them, they started to get. Then we went to the University of Tennessee camp and it emerged, especially from the hitters.”
Richards said one of the team’s problems last season was its inability to “close the deal” in numerous matches.
She hopes that has changed.
“We got close, but out of frustration with ourselves or our teammates — whatever the case may be — we couldn’t close the deal,” Richards said.
“I feel like we’ll have a lot more wins this year.”
Murray County begins its season Thursday with a 5 p.m. tri-match at Ringgold that will also include Darlington.
The Lady Mountaineers are another local team that made an appearance in the second round of state last year.
There will be different players trying to make it two postseason appearances in a row, though.
With the graduation of Casey Chapman, Iliana Munguia, Machaela Bickford and Hanna Abdelrazzaq, North Murray will rely on new names.
Grace Phillips returns from last year’s starting lineup, but may move from middle hitter to setter. Some of the replacements are juniors Harmony Jones, Maggie Dunn and Hayley Hart, plus freshman Hannah Long, a transfer from Christian Heritage.
Earlier this week, Lady Mount-aineers coach Connie Hudgins said some of the positions aren’t set yet because versatile players will give her lineup options.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Hudgins said. “The past two years I’ve had the same group out there. The girls I have now (who are juniors) have never played varsity. Most schools are like that, but I feel it’s different. I don’t have two or three juniors. I have a big group.”
The goal for the squad is to make it to the postseason again after finishing third in Area 5-3A and compiling a 17-14 record overall.
Hudgins said her goal is another top-four area finish and trip to state. She knows she’ll have to accomplish that with a different group but believes the Lady Mountaineers will “do fairly well” in the end.
The Lady Mountaineers’ first game is Tuesday at Haralson County.