The athletic department moves up to Class 6A from being in 5A the previous two years. Furthermore, the Wolfpack graduated several top players and return only two seniors.
However, North Paulding is still optimistic.
“We had a good offseason and training together as a team since the beginning of July,” said third-year head coach Geoff Gardener.
Leading the charge for North Paulding will be the two seniors, middle blocker Madison Rhodes and outside hitter Alex Thompson.
“Madison has improved in the offseason and will be a major front row player for us as a leader,” said Gardener. “Alex will play outside for us and has huge serve potential with a strong arm.”
The Wolfpack was eliminated from the playoffs last season by eventual state finalist Sequoyah in the first round. The defeat taught the team valuable lessons.
“I felt like we didn’t have a lot of teamwork in the playoff game but we’re doing better with that now,” Rhodes said. “The loss will benefit us this postseason and we’ll possibly go even further.”
Junior setter Morgan Mixon said the team has “worked on improving communication and putting the ball in play at the right places.”
North Paulding operated without a standard defensive lineup last season, forgoing the usage of a libero in its rotation. Gardener said the Wolfpack will most likely use a libero – a defensive specialist who cannot block or attack – this season with Megan Duke receiving the first opportunity to secure the position.
The defensive back line will still be led by Mixon.
“Morgan has the best hands on the court and is a great defensive player,” said Gardener.
The Wolfpack had non-region contests earlier this week against Hiram and Douglas County to prepare for their difficult Region 4-AAAAAA schedule, which will include state powers Harrison and North Cobb.
“We’re putting players into different positions and seeing who steps up,” said Gardener. “Our starters will change throughout the year but we have a shot to make the postseason again.”
North Paulding opens region play Thursday at McEachern.