After making the elite eight last season, the Lady Hoyas matched up against other teams from different classifications that made it to at least the state quarterfinals last season, won all four matches and improved to 8-0 on the season.
Harrison, however, did have difficulty in its earlier matches, needing three sets to beat Class AAA runner-up Blessed Trinity (25-19, 23-25, 15-11) and another three to oust Mountain View (22-25, 25-11, 15-9).
Then, the Lady Hoyas settled down and beat Class AAAAAA runner-up Chattahoochee (25-12, 25-12) and wrapped up the day with a 25-13, 25-20 win over Class AAA semifinalist Woodward Academy.
“I think we have a lot of potential this season,” said senior outside hitter Caroline Ostman, a Georgia commitment. “We’re returning a lot of players, but we still have a lot to prove. We haven’t earned anything yet. We have to take this season one step at a time.”
Ostman was on both the Harrison teams that made it to the state finals in 2011 and 2012 — losing to Walton both times — and there are a couple of freshmen who could be potential superstars.
Freshman Kaylee Morris may be Harrison’s full-time setter the next four years, based on her performance Saturday, and Camryn Bihary is one of the Lady Hoyas’ most aggressive servers.
Harrison’s future also looks set with sophomore returners Katie Doering, Allana McInnis and Sarah Taylor, all of whom are coming off solid freshmen seasons. Doering had 13 kills against Chattahoochee and added 10 more against Woodward Academy.
Despite all the highlights, mistakes were also made, and coach Clay Taylor is still experimenting with different lineups. Seniors Jocelyn Mahayag and Kodi Smith both split time at setter Saturday, and McInnis, who can also set, saw much of her playing time on the right side.
“We’re still making mistakes, and other teams are still making mistakes that we’re not going to be making in a month and a half,” Clay Taylor said. “We’re trying different personnel and different rotations since it’s early. We have a lot of new kids this year and we have to find a place where they can contribute.”
The only time Harrison appeared out of sync was in the first set against Mountain View, when it struggled on serve-receive and passing, and the Lady Hoyas’ attacks were often blocked by Mountain’s View size up front.
But once Harrison started distributing the ball better in the second set, its attacks were more successful. Mountain View had two blocks and four block-assists in the first set alone, but just one block in the second and third sets combined.
North Cobb also attended the play date, going 2-2 with wins over Class AAAAAA semifinalist Johns Creek (25-23, 25-21) and Mountain View (25-14, 25-16). The Lady Warriors lost to Woodward (25-19, 22-25, 16-14) and Class A champion Wesleyan (25-21, 25-18).
Like Harrison, North Cobb is sampling with different lineups.
Junior Taylor Parrish, a third-year setter, had 66 assists in the four matches. Libero Cristina Matacotta took over for Tate Pember, who is now at Auburn, and had 54 digs and five aces.
Senior outside hitters Savanna Gonzales and Abby Miller are expecting to be North Cobb’s offensive leaders on the outside, and they combined for 48 kills.
Middle hitter Shannon Callan finished with eight aces and five blocks, and Lizzie Daniel had 15 kills.
“It’s a good test early in the season to see where you’re at,” North Cobb coach James Auld said. “We’re excited. We win some and lose some. We’re battling early-season injuries, but the new players really contributed. We feel confident that we will be strong. It’s matter of getting feedback and getting back into the gym.”