One year after the most successful season in program history, the Creekview volleyball team is looking to reload.

The Lady Grizzlies’ run to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals last season came in a whirlwind for coach Jessica Estes in her first season as varsity coach at her alma mater. Entering her second season as coach, the 2011 Creekview graduate said this year’s team will be a mix of experience.

“We lost seven seniors last season, and a lot of them had played together on varsity since their freshman and sophomore seasons,” Estes said. “This year, we have two seniors and then a pretty good mix after that.”

Seniors Paige Hooper and Lizzie Williams will be flanked by four juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. Sophomore Sophia Del Valle will likely serve as the libero, while fellow sophomore Ellie Johnson should play a key role as setter.

With such an inexperienced team, Estes admitted she was a bit anxious prior to last week’s Sequoyah Classic. After winning their pool, the Lady Grizzlies fell to Pope in the knockout round of the gold bracket.

It was reigning state champion Pope which defeated Creekview in the semifinals last season, but Estes said her team’s resolve to get to that point was encouraging.

“Because the summer was so hectic, we only had about a week to play together as a team before the Sequoyah Classic,” Estes said. “I think, by winning our pool, the players proved to themselves they can be successful.”

The Lady Grizzlies laid out both team and personal goals this week, and Estes said several players are also healing from early-season injuries. Estes, along with assistant coach Taylar Nhep, worked with the team on their serves, and Estes said both coaches have been stressing the importance of learning to play together as a unit.

As the team ran through drills Wednesday, both coaches urged their players to talk more when receiving the ball from the opposition.

“We stressed to them that there’s a lot of talent on this team, but because they haven’t played together yet, we have to keep our energy up and focus on those little things,” Estes said. “It’s kind of cool we get to start over with a new team and new group of players.”

Within Region 6AAAAAA, Estes expects archrival Sequoyah to be good this season, though she added she does not spend much time early in the season scouting the opposition. The Lady Chiefs beat Etowah to win the Sequoyah Classic last week.

“I don’t personally go and research other teams. I kind of focus on ourselves to start out,” Estes said. “Once we get a little further in the season, I’ll start looking more at the other teams.”

“I think last year set the tone for the older girls we have back this year. We want to get back there, or even beat where we got last year.”

Team Breakdowns:

Cherokee

Coach: Jamie Horton (third season)

Last season: 23-17, 3-3 in Region 4-AAAAAAA

Key Returners: Riley Horton (senior, outside hitter), Ashlyn Andrews (senior, setter), Sadie McCauley (senior, setter), Jasmin Walker (senior, middle hitter), Peyton Kenny (senior, libero), Faith Breitbarth (sophomore, outside hitter)

Newcomers of impact: Ansley Gulledge (freshman, outside hitter), Maddie Cullem (freshman, defensive specialist)

Creekview

Coach: Jessica Estes (second season)

Last season: 32-15, 5-4 in Region 6-AAAAAA, lost to Pope in the Final Four of state playoffs

Key Returners: Paige Hooper (senior, middle hitter), Lizzie Williams (senior, outside hitter), Sophia Del Valle (sophomore, libero/defensive specialist), Mary Sweet (junior, defensive specialist), Anslee McDonald (junior, defensive specialist)

Newcomers of impact: Alivia Mynes (sophomore, outside/middle hitter), Morgan McClure (sophomore, middle hitter), Ellie Johnson (sophomore, setter), Mackenzie Salas (sophomore, setter)

Etowah

Coach: Kim Robertson (12th season)

Last season: 35-17, 3-2 in Region 4-AAAAAAA, lost to Milton in first round of state playoffs

Key Returners: Savannah Bray (senior, outside hitter), Sydney Britton (junior, defensive specialist/libero), Lia Keene (sophomore, defensive specialist/libero), Olivia Tafoya (junior, setter), Nina Valesco (junior, outside hitter), M.K. Kerlin (junior, setter/outside hitter), Emily Page (senior, middle hitter)

Newcomers of impact: Olivia Laflamme (junior, defensive specialist), Teagan Barden Street (junior, outside hitter), Ari Deforneau (sophomore, middle hitter), Amelia Ryan (sophomore, right side)

River Ridge

Coach: Julie Wilt-Winfield (Fifth season)

Last season: 22-27, 4-4 in Region 6-AAAAAA

Key Returners: Gabbi Phillips (junior, setter), Lagacy Guider (junior, libero), Abby Infante (senior, middle hitter), Reagan Keener (senior, outside hitter)

Newcomers of impact: Tegan James (sophomore), Kayla Horne (junior)

Sequoyah

Coach: John Edwards (10th season)

Last season: 23-14, 6-3 in Region 6-AAAAAA, lost to Alpharetta in first round of state playoffs

Key Returners: Paige Powers (junior, outside hitter), Allie Powers (senior, right side hitter), Kora Hansen (sophomore, defensive specialist), Caitlyn Ross (senior, defensive specialist)

Newcomers of impact: Taylor Pecht (freshman, setter), Skylar Martin (freshman, libero), Sara Siefert (freshman, outside hitter), Catherine Brumbeloe (freshman, middle hitter), Emma Bjerke (junior, middle hitter)

Woodstock

Coach: Kelly Audia (first season)

Last season: 12-24, 1-6 in Region 4-AAAAAAA

Key Returners: Jesse Taylor (senior, setter), Nyla Shepard (senior, middle blocker), Cammi Breitbart (senior, defensive specialist/libero), Brooke Loan (junior, outside hitter).

Newcomers of impact: Neva Clark (junior, outside hitter), Peyton White (freshman, setter)

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