By Chris McCarthy/ Editor/Publisher
Whatever challenges await the Gadsden State volleyball team this season, the Lady Cardinals won’t be lacking in talent or numbers.
“This is the maybe one of the top three athletic teams that I’ve had in my nine years here,” said head coach Angie Sanders. “We’ve also got some depth this year in that we’re three or four [players] deep at every position.
The eight-person sophomore class includes Hokes Bluff’s Malory Moland at middle hitter, Gaston’s Tanna Lawson at defensive specialist, C.J. Payton at outside hitter, Collin Nichols and Devonna Taylor at middle hitter and Amy Estes at setter. Twins Lauren and Megan Butler from Bob Jones in Huntsville are transfers in from Wallace-Hanceville.Taylor was named to the ACCC All-Region first team, while Estes was selected to the second team. Taylor also made the All-ACCC Tournament team.
The incoming freshman class three players from Southside in hitters Katie Mitchell, Jordan Rich and Madison Clayton.
Other newcomers include middle hitter Audrianna Hargitt from Cedar Bluff, defensive specialist Stora Gillian from Addison, middle hitter Hannah Everett from Boaz, outside hitter Amanda Young from Alexandria and defensive specialist Abbie Saxon from Anniston.
Everett was named to the Class 5A All-State first team, while Mitchell made the second team. Gilliland and Hargitt were selected to the 1A first team.
“I definitely needed another setter, because we couldn’t let Amy be the Lone Ranger out there all season,” said Sanders. “If she were to get hurt or something, we’d be in trouble, because you can’t do anything without a good setter. So it really was a blessing to get Megan. Plus, Addison is always a powerhouse in 1A, and Stora is my first girl from there, so I’m proud of that.”
Sanders wasted no time in putting pressure on several of the newcomers.
“Hargitt, Everett and Mitchell have got to do something for us. I’ve got a lot of girls that need to play, so right now I’m ironing out some kinks so we can do that. Honestly, I can field two good teams right now.”
Sanders is also pleased to have five players from Etowah County on this year’s squad.
“I don’t think that Malory’s ever missed a practice, and she does everything she’s supposed to do. She’s got great size and great blocking capabilities and can play right side or the middle. She’s also an excellent student and a great team player. Tanna is a very gritty and scrappy player who doesn’t like to lose. She’ll be a big contributor for us. The three Southside girls all did well last season in high school. I try to get girls who make school important and since I teach over there, I knew that all of those girls will do that.”
Gadsden State went 3-2 at the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament last season. The Lady Cardinals lost to eventual state runnerup Faulkner State in the semifinal round. GSCC went 14-12, 5-3 in conference play.
“I think we ended up having a good year; Faulkner just ended up playing a little bit better then us that day,” said Sanders, who is 549-108. “The girls fought really hard and it was a great match, but we came up short by two points in the fifth game.”
Gadsden State’s ACCC competition includes Faulkner, Wallace-Hanceville, Snead State, Jeff Davis, Lawson State, Southern Union and Wallace-Selma.
Snead is coached by Dee Ayers, who played for Sanders at Southside.
“Dee’s only been at Snead for two years, but she’s going to do good things while she’s there,” said Sanders. “It’s hard to out-recruit us because us and Wallace are established in this area, but I expect her to venture out a little bit more and get some good recruits.”
Once again set to lend a hand is Connie Clark, a West End graduate who has been with Sanders every year at GSCC.
“I always say that me and Connie are co-head coaches,” said Sanders. “She’s very organized and we compliment each other very well. Things really wouldn’t run as smoothly without her, both on the court and administratively.”
The Lady Cardinals travel to Florence on Tuesday (Aug. 20) for a scrimmage against North Alabama and open the season on Aug. 23-24 at the Wallace-Hanceville Tournament. The team’s first home match is Sept. 12 against Faulkner State. The ACCC Tournament will be held at Wallace-Hanceville in early November.
“I like the leadership that we have from the sophomores, and we have some really good freshmen,” said Sanders. “They’re all very strong players who are working really hard. This group seems to be doing really well together, so I’m expecting a good year.”