Addison Cherry remembers Sarah Dubberley’s first year as Trinity’s volleyball coach when she pulled then-freshman Cherry up to the varsity, skipping a stint on the junior varsity team.
“I had Coach Sarah as a coach in the eighth grade when I was on the middle school team,” Cherry recalled. “I played on a club team at CCJ and Coach Sarah also coaches there. Going into ninth grade at tryouts, she just randomly pulled me up (to varsity). I was really surprised.”
It wasn’t random, but it certainly was risky.
“I made a very bold move and pulled her up as a freshman, so she never played junior varsity,” Dubberley said. “I remember talking to (husband) Sellers and wondering if I would get any heat for this. It’s just been so much fun watching her growth. She’s a phenomenal athlete, it comes very natural to her, but her volleyball IQ and her leadership on the court has grown exponentially. We couldn’t do what we do without Addie.”
Spin forward a year and Cherry is the most valuable player in the state tournament, leading the Wildcats to the Class 3A state championship. Spin forward another year and a more mature, wiser Cherry is even better on the court in 2021.
“She bought into what I was doing,” Dubberley said, reflecting back on the 2019 season. “Not all the girls did. But when you don’t play JV and you go straight from middle school to varsity, she was scared to step on toes. Last year, as a sophomore, she just took it and ran, the leadership part.
“I’ve seen when we’re in tight sets or facing adversity, she’ll pull everyone in and even if it’s a quick two seconds, ‘Hey, we’ve got this,’ ‘next ball, get it back,’ she takes it upon herself to do the little things and I don’t coach that out of her.”
Cherry admits there is plenty of talent and capable leaders on this Trinity team, but as the team’s setter, everything flows through Cherry.
“Setters are pretty much the quarterback of the team,” she observed. “You have to tell the hitters what you’re going to run. I love being a setter because I feel like I’m in control. I like it a lot.”
And when you combine those leadership qualities with her athletic ability, Cherry is among the best in the state at her position.
“I have had setters in the past that have had the volleyball IQ and they know who to set in what situation but God might not have gifted you as much with speed and agility and fast feet,” Dubberley said. “She’s able to make plays that, half the time, I don’t even know how she got that ball up. It’s fun to watch her play.”
Cherry passed the 1,000-assist mark in her career last week against Prattville Christian and is now closing in on 1,200. She didn’t know she was nearing the milestone until Dubberley told her before the game.
“Coach said you might get your 1000th assist tonight,” Cherry said, “so I kind of had an idea but I didn’t know if I was going to get it or not. It was exciting,. It was fun.”
It was also bittersweet. The Wildcats dropped the area opener to PCA after beating the Panthers in the Mayor’s Cup a week earlier.
“We really didn’t play our best,” Cherry said. “Our front line was struggling. They’ve got a couple of really tall hitters that can hit straight down and they were hitting right over our blocks. That was the main issue that we’ve been working on in practice.”
Trinity returns to 3A Area 6 play at home on Thursday against Catholic. The regular-season champion earns a bye in the three-team area and is guaranteed a postseason berth, while one of the best teams in the state will sit at home after losing in the first round of the area tournament.
“I would like to not be in the same area,” Dubberley said. “The fact that one of us won’t get to go (to the postseason), that’s hard for me to wrap my mind around because I’ve seen both teams and they are really good. We’re really good.
“With my team, I would say the biggest thing we need growth on is responding to adversity. Once we win the first set, we get very complacent in the second. We’ve got to find a way to push through that and earn our wins and not expect them.”
Cherry takes her cue from her coach and encourages her teammates to not take anything for granted, especially in the rugged Area 6 race.
“Even though we won the state last year, we’re still working as hard as we did before,” she said “and everyone on the team is working so hard and putting in a lot of effort.”