With most of the volleyball teams in the area still relatively new to the sport, many head coaches in Rome are looking for ways to help their programs mature in a hurry.
Competing in big events — like Saturday’s Coosa Invitational at Shorter and the Darlington Invitational at the Huffman Center — is one way to accelerate the process.
The Coosa Invitational, which featured 12 teams, was an all-day event at the Winthrop-King Centre, and each of the participating teams was able to play a handful of matches.
At Darlington, where the Lady Tigers hosted their annual tournament for the 13th season, teams were likewise able to play multiple matches in one setting.
Both events opened with pool play and then broke off into brackets to determine the championship pairings.
“This is a great chance for the teams to get some playing experience,” said Coosa coach Nic Hann, who served as the Invitational’s director.
“Some of the coaches told me they were bringing some of their younger girls to get them in (the matches) because they knew it would be a long day.”
Southeast Whitfield won the Gold Division at the Coosa tournament, downing Jefferson, 25-17, 25-23, in the championship.
Armuchee took the title in the Silver Division by rallying past Rome. The Lady Indians lost the first game, 25-14, but bounced back to win the last two, 25-21, 15-9.
Armuchee coach Stacy Payne said the Invitational was beneficial for her team — and not just in terms of racking up wins.
“I love being in tournaments because of the amount of play,” said Payne, who guided the Lady Indians to the state tourney last season and has them off to a 6-2 start in area matches this season. “It’s great to have this many matches (in one day).”
At Darlington, the Lady Tigers won the Silver division championship.
They defeated Gordon Lee in comeback fashion, 16-25, 25-20, 15-12, and then downed Mt. Pisgah, 25-17, 25-18.
At Coosa, the Lady Eagles — ranked No. 9 in the state — went 2-1 during pool play and qualified for the Gold Bracket as the No. 5 seed in the six-team division. (Seedings were determined by a formula that included the cumulative points scored and allowed).
The Lady Eagles were then eliminated from the bracket competition with an early-round loss.
“We were not consistent (today) — and that’s been our problem all year,” said Mary Ellen Masters, one of seven sophomores on the Coosa roster. “We’ve got all this talent but we can’t show it in games as much as we should.”
Still, Masters said the Lady Eagles are moving in the right direction.
“We’ve gotten better since the beginning of the season,” she said, “and we hope we can keep getting better.”
Hann said the Lady Eagles had momentum early in the day but seemed to lose their edge after an idle period.
“We played great the first couple of games; the girls came out ready to go,” he said. “(But) we had a break and then were flat after that. It shows the youth of our team.”
Hann said sophomore Perry Shumate had a strong showing at the tournament: “She definitely led us today,” he said.
This is the second year that Coosa has hosted the event, and Hann said Shorter was a perfect venue for it.
“The facility has been great,” he said. “We’ve heard lots of good remarks from coaches, and they want to come back (next year).”
At Darlington’s tournament, the Lady Tigers — who are one of the few long-established teams in the area — suffered their lone loss of the day during pool play, when they fell to GAC.
Rachel Simon, Sam Harton, Sydney Arthur, Anita Reddy, Reeve Trivette and Mary Margaret Wright all had contributing roles in Darlington’s run to the Silver Bracket title.