By Chris Goltermann
An early-season tri-match with county neighbor Trinity Christian and Fayette County — two GHSA schools — gave Central Christian’s volleyball team an immediate chance to look in the mirror.
And while coming away empty-handed, there may have been enough of a sample to see that the Lady Crusaders have the potential to thrive again in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association but also while knowing there’s room for improvement.
Chemistry, however, will not be among the issues for a roster this fall that is described by staff members as “a close knit group.”
“The girls are like family,” according to head coach Wil Huffins and school athletic director Justin Stephens, both of whom have seen their share of success among Central’s volleyball and basketball programs in the GICAA.
It’s been a good fit for the small private school out of Sharpsburg, having found a home in the league this decade since being part of the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama.
A venture outside GICAA boundaries wasn’t quite what the Lady Crusaders might have hoped in two-set losses to both GHSA opponents, each of which have enrollments that are massive compared to Central’s.
Yet Central held its own at times in both matches, battling Fayette in Game 2 before the Lady Tigers finally pulled away. The team equally had Trinity off-balanced in Game 1, twice rallying to tie the score before losing steam.
With five key returners, Huffins is hoping this year’s lineup can reach “their full potential,” while coming off consecutive GICAA Division II-A Region championships. What he described as a “plethora of returning underclassmen,” also will be among assets while looking to advance out of Region 4, which is the largest among Division II-A with six schools.
Central, Holy Ground and Lafayette of LaGrange make up the B-subregion while Arlington Christian, Harvester Christian and Heirway Christian are in subregion ‘A’.
Prior to the tri-match against Fayette and Trinity, the Lady Crusaders opened their season with a sweep of Skipstone in a best-of-five dual setting.
The starting rotation is dominated by a veteran group including three seniors and two juniors. Senior captains Jordan Farlow and Ari Silva are back up front at outside and middle hitter positions, respectively, while senior Ana Carter is a top returner on the right side.
Junior Abigail Clark also is back at the setter position to help guide the Lady Crusaders offense in addition to the return of junior Anna Settle on the back line.
Newcomer Molly Rados brings additional talent to the libero spot as a defensive specialist while also capable of playing up front as an outside hitter.
Serenity Ivey also provides depth on the backline while playing throughout both matches against Fayette and Trinity along with Amber Tomlinson, Anna Settle and Ashley McGraw.
Despite struggling at the finish against Trinity, the former league rivals will get a chance to meet again in non-region play on Oct. 1 at Central, just prior to tournament time.