STAFF REPORTThe 2019 Bartow County volleyball season offered a mixed bag among the teams and within the campaigns of individual squads.
On the surface, Cartersville and Woodland did well to each win 20 matches on the year. However, both would have hoped for more success at the business end of the season. The Canes, who reached the Class 4A state Final Four a year ago, finished second in Region 5-AAAA and fell in the first round of the state playoffs. The Wildcats, meanwhile, went 0-2 in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament to end a promising season.
Elsewhere, Cass produced a season similar to its 2018 campaign. The Colonels found themselves plenty of tight battles throughout the year and managed to produce double-digit wins. Adairsville was probably the most improved team in the county. Not only did the Tigers improve their win total over the previous year but also the team showed plenty of growth during the course of the 2019 season.
Player of the Year: Lauren Wenzell, Cartersville senior
Wenzell was an all-county honorable-mention choice in 2016 and 2017 before opting not to play for the high school team her junior season. She returned this year and immediately established herself as the Canes’ top offensive weapon. On a team that lacked experience, Wenzell’s ability helped carry the Canes through some early season ups and downs. The star of the Bartow County championships, Wenzell totaled 287 kills, 204 digs and 48 aces on the season, while earning all-region recognition along with classmate Halle Matthews.
Aaliyah Applin, Adairsville junior — Applin was arguably the best defensive player in the county in 2019 and proved to be an absolute rock for the Tigers. Her ability to dig out difficult shots and still make crisp passes helped the Adairsville offense take significant steps forward this season. An all-tournament selection for the county championships and an all-area honoree, Applin will be one of the top returning players in the county next year, as the Tigers will look to continue their improvement.
Caroline Gore, Woodland senior — One of the Wildcats’ two second-team all-region selections (along with Sydney Molinaro), Gore finished off her Woodland career with another outstanding individual season. She finished second on the team with 198 kills, while also making significant contributions in digs (105) and aces (56). The outside hitter also performed well in service (84.42%) and serve-receive (84.35%), putting forth almost identical percentages in each category.
Keegan Krause, Cass senior — Krause showed a lot of potential during her junior campaign, but a bevy of talented hitters meant the transfer from Texas didn’t have ample opportunities. Following the graduation of 2018 all-county honorable-mention selections Alexis Ware and Blaire Waters, Krause really came into her own during her senior season. She led the Colonels offensive attack as an outside hitter and earned all-region honorable-mention status alongside classmate Madison Philpott.
Halle Matthews, Cartersville senior — It’s hard to imagine any player in the county improved as much from 2018 to 2019 as Matthews. She was a part of the rotation for last year’s state semifinalist team but took on a major role this season following the departure of five key seniors. Her contributions on the court as a middle blocker were massive, including 135 kills and 58 blocks. But her work off the court for an extremely young team were also huge, earning her a team leadership award.
Sydney Molinaro, Woodland junior — Molinaro proved to be the most well-rounded player in the county this season. She led Woodland in most statistical categories, including kills (200), digs (153), assists (248) and aces (76). Her serve and serve-receive percentages were also stellar. With two fellow all-county honorees graduating, Molinaro will be asked to step up even more for Woodland in 2020. If she rises to the challenge, she will have an excellent chance to earn Player of the Year selection.
Madison Philpott, Cass senior — One of the most consistent players in the county, Philpott caps her impressive Cass career with a third consecutive all-county selection. As setter for the Colonels, the offense almost always filtered through her. Despite having some of Cass’ top hitters graduate this past spring, Philpott and Co. still managed to put together a solid season. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Philpott could be the toughest player in the county to replace in 2020, given her role and skillset.
Grace Webb, Woodland senior — If there was a defensive player of the year award in the county, Webb would have as strong a case as anybody. Her ability at the net was almost unparalleled. She recorded an incredible 94 blocks but managed to contribute strong numbers in several other areas. Webb finished her senior year with 125 kills, 111 digs and 55 aces. She was a pretty reliable barometer for Woodland’s success, seeming to always make winning plays at opportune times.
Emmalee Cigainero, Woodland junior; Lauren Morris, Woodland senior; Megan Smith, Adairsville senior; and Macey Vaughn, Cartersville junior.