When he became the Cedartown High School varsity volleyball coach earlier this year, John Sheffield had three main goals for his Lady Bulldogs.
“I told them right away that we were going to compete in the region, qualify for the playoffs, and make a run in the state tournament,” Sheffield said in September.
Two down, one to go.
After a solid regular season in which the Lady Bulldogs finished 19-17-1, Cedartown punched their ticket to the state playoffs by earning three victories in last week’s Area 7-4A Tournament.
CHS finished the regular season with a 5-4 record in their final nine contests. This included victories over Southeast Whitfield (2-0), Coosa (3-1), Pickens (2-0), Adairsville (2-0), and Gordon Central (2-0) and losses to Heritage-Catoosa (two 2-0 defeats), Christian Heritage (2-1), and Ridgeland (2-0).
“Looking back on the regular season, we probably should’ve won a couple games we lost,” Sheffield said. “However, it was a long season with some long road trips and some tough tests. In about 90% of our games I’d say we competed well. In those other matches, the energy may not have been right for our team and it just didn’t go our way.”
Sheffield said the team was aiming to make a name for Cedartown volleyball in 2020 and “make it known that we aren’t an easy win.” Some of the main stressing points throughout the season were having pride in the team, making opponents earn every point, and limiting mistakes.
With a 3-7 record in Region 7-4A play, the Lady Bulldogs ended the regular season fourth in the league standings. “I am very pleased with fourth in this tough region,” Sheffield said. “If they play like they’re capable, they can make it to the playoffs and do a lot of great things. I’m just happy for them to be in this position.”
The former Cedartown Middle School volleyball head coach said that although his team lost every time they played the top three teams in the region — Heritage, Northwest Whitfield, and Ridgeland — he had a good feeling that they might be able to upset one of them in the area tournament.
His “good feeling” came to fruition on Saturday morning.
With a double-elimination format, the Lady Bulldogs had to win two games before losing twice.
In their first round matchup at Heritage-Catoosa on Thursday, Cedartown defeated Pickens in two sets (25-14, 25-21). Once in the winners’ bracket, the Lady Bulldogs fell to one-seed Heritage 2-0 (25-14, 25-12).
This set up a win-or-go-home situation for coach Sheffield’s squad on Saturday morning. The Lady Bulldogs knocked off Southeast Whitfield in two sets (25-14, 25-17). Then, Sheffield’s epiphany came true. His team shocked Ridgeland 2-0 (25-16, 25-20) for their first win over the Lady Panthers all season.
Although they fell in their final match to Heritage 2-0 (25-13, 25-10), Cedartown had clinched the three-seed out of Region 7-4A.
“We played awesome. This is a great day for Cedartown volleyball,” Sheffield said. “I am so happy for our seniors, Mary Avis Casey and Lindsey Lee. They played great and led this team all year. Shania Stowe also served great and led our defense.”
Sheffield also highlighted players such as Zarriah Wofford, Kendal Pace, Marycruz Navarro, and Kimberly Otero as other standout performers in their tournament run.
“I’m really looking forward to the state playoffs,” Sheffield said. “We earned it in the regular season and proved it in the area tournament. I wanted a banner in our gym saying ‘state qualifier’ because they’ve worked for it, and they got it done.”
For Cedartown, Sheffield’s first year in charge ended a five-year playoff drought for Lady Bulldog volleyball. Now that they have qualified for the postseason, they will try to create a deep playoff run — one of Sheffield’s preseason goals.
The Lady Bulldogs hit the road to start the GHSA Volleyball State Playoffs on Wednesday by traveling to Druid Hills, the Area 6-4A runner-up.