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The Westminster Bi-Line

The Westminster Bi-Line

Volleycats’ experienced squad boasts successful season, looks toward state

After losing nine seniors from last year’s team, it would have seemed difficult for the 2012 version of Varsity girls volleyball to repeat a season as successful as the last, with a 21-19 record. However, behind the leadership of the sole seniors, Jillian Puskas and Margaret Strickland, Westminster has come back even stronger. After amassing an impressive 26-11 record during the regular season, they now look to continue their run into the playoffs.

“We have performed especially well this year because although our team is young, we are very experienced,” said junior Ellie Hartman. “In the off-season we put in a lot of hours every week. Our hard work has really started to pay off at the right time.”

After defeating a tough Harlem team in the first round of the state playoffs and dominating Early County High School in the second round, the Cats look ahead to a tough GAC match on October 31 before hopefully advancing to the state finals on November 3. “I think as a team we played well against Harlem, but Early County is a new team and we have to go in not too confident,” said Hartman. “It is a new team, new day. The opponent is ‘nameless, faceless’ as Coach Braden likes to say.”

Early County is coming into this matchup with a great deal of confidence as well. In the first round, they dispatched Toombs County in an emotional five-set victory and now face an extremely prepared Westminster team. Massive contributions have come from freshmen Elizabeth Harvey and Hannah Morgan, as well as valued leadership from returning contributors Caroline Beadles, Kerrie Greene, and Mason Rooney, which emphasizes the importance of this year’s underclassmen.  After reaching the GHSA AA/A State Quarterfinals last year, Coach Jona Braden leads the Wildcats in hopes of returning to the championship where she has won twice since arriving at Westminster.

For Westminster, this match against Early County has a further impact; a win on Tuesday night would potentially set up a matchup with Lovett. Having been beaten twice already this season by the Cats, Lovett will obviously be looking for revenge. Yet, as many of the Westminster players have pointed out, the rivalry will not be a factor in how they prepare. “We have been in the gym everyday after school working on agility, lifting weights, and getting as much time on the court as possible,” said Hogan, “We have been practicing together since August 4, so basically everyday, meaning, we have seen each other a lot.  Our team has developed basically a sisterhood that has helped develop our team.”

Overall, this season has been a resounding success regardless of the playoff outcome. With such a young and inexperienced team it would have been easy to write this season off as a rebuilding year. Yet, through the resolve of Coach Braden as well as the senior leadership and underclassmen playmaking, this Westminster team is looking to make their mark on the state playoffs.

“Winning state would be icing on the cake to a great season,” said Hartman, “I have been watching Westminster volleyball for over ten years now and I have seen them win numerous state championships and to think I could finally be a part of that would be amazing.”

With such an important game upcoming, the team knows what is at stake and is trying everything in their preparation to put them in a position to succeed. Having been through much adversity this season, Westminster looks to capitalize on those experiences and use them to their advantage come playoffs and hopefully bring back a state title to Westminster.

“Our team gives our all and is relentless on the court,” said Caroline Beadles, another junior member of the team, “Coach Braden motivates us to remember that even though we’re struggling, we can push through. One of my favorite sayings of hers is, ‘We will be challenged, not defeated.’”

Watch the VolleyCats’ hard-fought state championship game against Lovett.

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