CEDAR BLUFF – There’s plenty of motivation to go around for the Cedar Bluff volleyball team this upcoming season.

Five starters return from last season, hungry to avenge last season’s 16-29 record.

Former Snead State volleyball coach Dusty Cothran comes on board as the Lady Tigers’ new assistant coach.

And, the players themselves are reaching inward for the characteristics that will make them a family.

“(Basketball) Coach (Joe) Carpenter invited Brian Cain in, the sports psychologist,” head coach Tiffany Rieger said. “One of (Cain’s) things is core covenants. What characteristics do you want your team to have in order to be successful?”

Rieger asked her varsity girls to come up with five words they thought each member of the team needed individually and as a whole to have a successful season. They came up with persistent, ambitious, discipline, optimistic, faithful. Cothran came up with acronym PADOF.

“We definitely struggled with words to put those letters into,” Cothran said. “I started thinking about safety. When we get into the gym, you need to feel safe to mess up. You need to understand as part of a family, when you mess up, the heads of the family are going to come down on you because that’s going to make the family stronger, make the family better. The whole thing is about trying to encourage the family part of it. You have a responsibility to this family, but you’ve got people to fall back on. That’s the family aspect of it, and I think the kids are really buying into that.”

Rieger said Cothran has been “an unbelievably good motivator” for the Cedar Bluff volleyball ‘family’ since he came on board this summer. Rieger said she sees the former Cherokee County, Guntersville and Shorter University assistant coach as an equal partner in coaching the Lady Tigers.

“I told him from day one I don’t see him as my assistant coach. He’s got as much say as I do,” Rieger said. “He’s very knowledgeable. He’s wonderful with our setters. We kind of balance each other out. He sees a lot of things I don’t see. I think it works well.”

The Lady Tigers have two returning seniors in libero Paige Bryant and middle blocker Jasmine Adams. Bryant led Cedar Bluff with 582 digs last season. Adams led the team in blocks (35).

“My two seniors, Paige and Jasmine, haven’t been playing their whole career, but they’ve come a long way in the short time they have played,” Rieger said. “Paige is absolutely invaluable from the back row. She’s a wonderful passer and she’s dedicated on defense. She makes plays you don’t expect anybody in the gym to make.

“Jasmine has really been working on her footwork, trying to get quicker. She’s one of our backup setters. She’s been working on that this summer too.”

Also returning to the Lady Tigers lineup are junior middle blocker Marigrace Wilson, junior outside hitter Abby Storey, and junior right side Lexi Moten.

“I’ve had MG (Wilson) and Abby since seventh grade, and they’ve come a long way,” Rieger said. “Abby has progressed to having really good feet in serve-receive. She’s probably our most dominant outside hitter. We’ve been working with MG and our new setter (freshman Laura Anne Hughes) on quicker sets. We’ve still got some work to do, but they’re progressing.

“Lexi is going to give 100-percent no matter what’s going on. Even if the play goes wild and everybody’s confused about what to do, Lexi and Laura Anne are not going to give up on the play.”

Sophomore Kiana Dobbins was expected to join Storey as an outside hitter, but Dobbins recently tore her anterior cruciate ligament at practice and is lost for the season.

Seventh grader Matison Bedwell has been moved up from the junior varsity to take Dobbins’s place.

Rounding out the Lady Tiger varsity roster is sophomore middle blocker Ashley Goodwin and freshman right side Clair Bryant.

“This is Ashley’s first year to play varsity. She may get some more playing time since Kiana is hurt, but we haven’t figured that out yet,” Rieger said. “Basically, we’re training Ashley to kind of fill in for Jasmine next year, but she may be able to help us out this year too.

“Like Lexi, Clair gives tons of hustle and is going to give 100-percent as well.”

The Lady Tigers will have to have that 100-percent effort all around from the get-go this season. They open at home against Gaston on Aug. 28, then play in the Albertville Tournament two days later. The Lady Tigers open the month of September at 2012 state champion Donoho in a tri-match with Class 4A White Plains on Sept. 2.

“Right off the bat, we’re going to match up with (Donoho) and see how we do,” Rieger said. “It will kind of give Dusty and I and idea of how we match up with them and what we need to focus on in order to be able to get to level. We don’t play them again until October, so we should be able to tell if we’re doing our job from the first of September until the first of October.

“We have some teams on our schedule we don’t usually play, like Ashville and Ohatchee. We have another team (in Class 1A, Area 12) who’s not usually in our area (Coosa Christian). We’re going to several tournaments I expect we’ll see good teams at (Donoho and Alexandria). Spring Garden is always fun to play. Sand Rock is going to be strong, and we’re playing Gadsden City, a 7A school. I’m hoping we see a lot of diversity.

“Hopefully we’ll teach the girls that no matter who’s on the other side we still have to play the way we play. We’ve got to be prepared to be us.”