That’s not the case anymore.
The Lady Warriors (48-10) recently completed a remarkable season with a team comprised primarily of underclassmen, with only three returning starters. North Cobb was ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA for the majority of the season, it made its first final in the Cobb County Invitational and it came just five points shy of reaching the state championship for the first time.
For his efforts, Auld is the 2011 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Volleyball Coach of the Year.
“We definitely looked to build a strong foundation with our middle school program,” Auld said. “We’ve been successful in developing a well-rounded team with some important role players.”
Auld came to North Cobb with a basketball background, having coached under boys basketball coach Terry Gorsuch for six seasons, but he did take a volleyball coaching course while he attended American University.
Once he accepted the head coaching position at North Cobb prior to the 2006 season, Auld attended Georgia Tech’s spring practices and learned under the Yellow Jackets’ then-coach, Bond Shymansky.
He also sought advice from some of the area’s other successful coaches, such as Harrison’s Clay Taylor and Kennesaw Mountain’s Tonya Kern-Honea. Taylor led the Lady Hoyas to a state title in 2006 and returned to the state finals this season, and Kern-Honea’s Lady Mustangs played for the championship in 2007.
One of the things Auld encouraged when he first started was getting his players involved with club volleyball. Auld said former North Cobb middle blocker Ashley Neff, a 2010 graduate who is now at Florida State, was one of the first to get involved in club, and others have since followed suit.
Now, everyone on the North Cobb roster plays for club teams, including most of the eighth-graders, who have won a combined 50 matches in middle school.
The Lady Warriors have improved gradually since 2006, and Auld has taken his team to the state tournament every year since 2007, but it wasn’t until this year when they did serious damage.
North Cobb’s roster included one of the state’s top outside hitters in Tori Forrest, who has signed to play at New Hampshire. Auld also had experience in setter Lauren Schmitz and middle blocker Katie O’Rourke.
The rest of the team was a mix of underclassmen, whose strengths were playing defense and passing. That group was led by freshmen Abby Miller and Karla Radillo, who will be the nucleus of Auld’s team next year.
“The core of our team (next year) will be 10th- and 11th-grade passers, and we will be a defensive-minded team,” Auld said. “I don’t mind coaching a scrappy team that’s consistent on defense and serve-receive.”
The success of this season will be something else North Cobb can build on. The Lady Warriors didn’t peak until the state tournament, starting with a five-set win at North Gwinnett in the second round.
North Cobb recovered from a fourth-set letdown to take control of the fifth set against the Lady Bulldogs. They went on to sweep West Forsyth in the quarterfinals and found themselves trailing two sets and 18-10 to Harrison in the state semifinals. They mounted an impressive rally to send the match to a fifth set, and the score was knotted at 10-all before Harrison stepped up to win.