0828-Coosa VB pre.jpg

File / The Outlook Central Coosa's Aliona McKenzie (7) will be a key returner on the front row for the Cougars this season.

Under new head coach Chris Elliott, Central Coosa’s volleyball team is focused on one major thing: Improvement.

The Cougars have built up a successful program and are looking to climb back to the top of their area tournament, but it’s going to take one day at a time. They don’t want to overlook anyone and they never want to think they’ve achieved perfection.

“We want to get better every day,” Elliott said. “I compare it to climbing a ladder. We don’t ever want to step down the ladder. We want to get better every day and we always want to learn from our past. We got put out in the first round of regionals last year, but I always tell the girls, ‘That’s not this team.’” 

Although improvement is a major focus, the Cougars have high expectations for this season. With high roster numbers — they have 17 total on varsity — and a ton of returners, Central Coosa should be threatening this year.

Kera Dunham is returning as a three-year starter at setter, and she’s proven extremely valuable for the Cougars.

“She’s real solid out there,” Elliott said. “She’s a really good decision maker and she’s getting better every day with her sets. Her back sets are really coming along and we’re putting in a slide so we’re excited about that. She really adds another dimension to our offense.” 

Coosa looked at moving to a two-setter rotation but decided to stick strictly with just one setter, so it’s likely Dunham will play the vast majority of plays. But she has plenty of weapons to go around.

Aliona McKenzie returns at middle hitter and she’ll be alongside fellow senior Edlena Gibbs who will take up the right side. Emilee Brown is just a sophomore but she should start at outside hitter, and Katie Windsor and Daja Pearson will take up starting spots on the back row.

Although Elliott knows who the projected starters are for the season opener at Elmore County on Thursday, he’s open to change the rotation at any time.

“I don’t make the lineup; they do,” Elliott said.

Brynlee Mitchell and Breanna Graham are two who should get a lot of playing time on the backrow and saw a lot of varsity action last year.

With so many strong returners, Elliott said the Cougars’ strength is really just their knowledge of the game.

“We have a lot of smart layers so I think decision making on the court will be a strength,” Elliott said. “We have some good hitters out there that are going to get some kills and we have some really good defensive players who are going to aid a lot in our game plan. But overall our strength is just our veteran players returning that understand the game and understand what we’re trying to do and them being leaders out on the floor.” 

Coosa is in an area with Fayetteville, Reeltown and Thorsby, and although Elliott doesn’t know much about the other area teams, he said if the Cougars play to their potential, there should be no problem with them being competitive.

“I feel we can go out and play with anybody,” Elliott said. “It’s about how well we perform each night. It’s going to be up to us to show up every time we get on the court and to bring our best game every time. You never want to play down to your opponent. Even if you are on paper better than them, you want to take care of your business every time.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.