The Lady Bruins earned Area 7’s No. 4 seed and reached the second round of the Class 4A state tournament a year ago.
Now coach Jennifer Quinn wants to do even better, even if she has few starters returning.
Northwest will lean heavily on sophomores Mary Kate Allen, a middle hitter, and Peyton Maret, an outside hitter, in the race for the area championship against Dalton, Heritage-Catoosa and Southeast — Area 7-4A’s other state qualifiers from 2012 — and others.
Other Lady Bruins returning from last year’s varsity squad are senior Lauren Smith — who will be used for back-row defense — and junior outside hitter McKinley Hopkins.
“We have six people (on the roster) who have never played varsity volleyball before,” Quinn said. “We’re going to be a very young team but very athletic.
“None of (the returning players) played the whole game. They just got three rotations each.”
She wants to improve on last year’s area finish and return to the state tournament. The Lady Bruins finished 18-22 last season.
“I expect to finish higher than that this year just because of their athleticism,” Quinn said. “They are very smart girls. They have athleticism and a hustling mentality. We just have to redefine their skills of volleyball and teach them the right way.
“I can see Mary stepping up and being a leader. I’m bringing up Mad-elyn Logan (sophomore) on the back row as a defensive specialist.”
Northwest begins its season Tuesday at home in a tri-match with Ringgold and Pickens at 6 p.m.
No Jake Dickey as coach.
No Hannah Graham at setter.
No Megan Collins at outside hitter.
No McKayla Burse at libero.
The local volleyball program that has enjoyed the most success lately will look a lot different this year.
The Lady Raiders lifted the local prep volleyball ceiling to the state semifinals last year. This season, it will be up to a new coach and new stars to keep it there or raise it.
Dickey was the most successful coach in the program’s history, helping the Lady Raiders win back-to-back area titles the past two years, reach the second round of the state tournament four times, win at least 25 games each of his seven seasons and at least 30 games twice.
But Dickey is gone. He accepted a job as West Forsyth High School’s volleyball coach in the spring, and Bethany Kenemer — an assistant throughout Dickey’s tenure, which began in 2006 — was named head coach.
Graham, Collins and Burse were selected to The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Volleyball Team in 2012. Collins was the newspaper’s Player of the Year in 2011, while Graham took the honor in 2012.
“Our goal is to not drop off,” Kenemer said. “Every year you lose seniors and those juniors step into those spots and fill those roles.”
The returning experience includes middle hitter Wendy Perez, outside hitters Yasmin Paloblanco, Yolanda Melgarejo and Serena Ramsey, and setter Angie Purkey. Perez, a senior, earned honorable mention to last year’s all-area lineup.
“It’s only her third year playing, but she has been coming in early and staying late,” Kenemer said. “She wants to be that go-to person and knows she has to step up to fill the shoes of the seniors.”
Southeast begins its season Thursday at North Cobb in a 6 p.m. tri-match with the host and Riverwood.�