Chattooga Volleyball (Summerville, GA)
Sara Birge may not have known what to expect when she joined the first volleyball team at Chattooga High School some three years ago.
However, her immediate future in the sport is a little more certain today.
The senior made a little history on Wednesday when she signed papers to continue her volleyball career for Coach Carrie Powell and the Georgia Northwestern Lady Bobcats.
In doing so, Birge will become the first Lady Indian to ever play the sport at the college level.
“I was shocked that (Powell) asked me to come and play,” Birge admitted, “but I feel very blessed that I get to go on and play college volleyball. It’s been my goal for a while now.”
Birge has grown from volleyball newbie to one of the better players in the greater Rome area during the last few seasons, making a name for herself as a defensive standout with a powerful serve.
“Sara has been with us since the beginning and she’s developed into one of the strongest servers in the area,” said Chattooga head coach Mark Pickle. “She also played club ball this past season and that really helped to get her name out there.”
Birge called being the first Chattooga player to move on to the college level “special”.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Pickle,” she said. “He taught me a lot and playing club ball was a great experience. Now having college coming up us really exciting. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Birge lettered in both volleyball and basketball in high school. She received the volleyball team’s Best Server Award following the fall season.
“Sara was just awesome this year for us,” said Jordan Green, who coaches Birge on a greater Rome area club team. “She was primarily a defensive specialist, but she also played some outside front row for us. She’s learned so much and improved so much. I’m really kind of jealous that Carrie gets to coach her now and we have to give her up.”
Powell said she is looking forward to have Birge in navy and silver.
“She’s a really versatile player,” Powell explained. “She can play on the back row, but she also has the potential to be a setter for us.
We’ve never had a player from Chattooga before, so I think she’ll bring something new to our program.”
“I’m not sure what position I’ll play (in college), but I’m going to work on everything,” Birge added. “I just want to play, no matter what position on the floor.”
Pickle, who has taught Birge since kindergarten, said the Lady Bobcats are also getting a fine young woman and a tough competitor.
“She’s a solid player, but her biggest asset is that she just wants to win,” he added. “She does anything you ask her to in order to win.”
Birge says she plans to major in Physical Education and wants to one day become a volleyball coach.
Chattooga Basketball (Summerville, GA)
Kambria Bankston averaged 10 points and eight rebounds a game for the Chattooga Lady Indians during the 2013-14 basketball season.
But it’s in two unquantifiable categories – versatility and leadership
– where she hopes to make her biggest mark at Georgia Northwestern Technical College.
The Lady Bobcats added the 5-foot-9 senior to the fold on Wednesday in a signing ceremony attended by family, friends and the rest of the Chattooga team.
“It’s exciting to know I’m moving up to play at the next level and fulfilling my dream of playing college basketball,” Bankston said.
“It’s what I’ve wanted to do. I’m glad I got the offer because I really wanted to keep playing and (GNTC) is close to home.”
Chattooga head coach Billy Martin said the Lady Bobcats are getting a hard worker.
“She’s easy to coach, has a great personality and she’s willing to do whatever is asked of her,” the coach explained. “We had a young team this season and the rest of the girls really looked up to her. (GNTC) is getting a good player, but more than anything they are getting a good leader and a great person.”
Bankston was an All-Region (7-AA) selection as a senior and was named as the Lady Indians’ Player of the Month for December by the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club.
She was also honored by her team after the season with the Leadership Award and hopes her leadership skills will transfer to her time with the Lady Bobcats, who will not return a single player from last season’s squad.
“Being the only senior, I really had to lead our team this past season,” she explained. “It was tough at times, but I feel like I did a pretty good job and I think I can be a leader (at GNTC).”
Martin said Bankston’s versatility would be an asset for the Lady Bobcats.
“She was our go-to-person anytime we needed anything on the court,” he added. “Some nights she would score more points and some nights she would have more rebounds, depending on who we played. But we’ve played her at point guard and in the post. She can really play just about any position on the floor. I really hate to lose her.”
Bankston said she’s willing to play anywhere for the Lady Bobcats.
“I’m really just looking to play,” she said. “I want to show everyone how I can play and what I can do.”
GNTC athletic director David Stephenson said he was impressed with Bankston’s character.
“It’s huge for her to make this kind of commitment without knowing who the (new women’s) coach is going to be,” he said. “She seems to be a really good kid from a good family and she came highly recommended.
Everyone will be on the same level (next season), so we’re looking for players to step up as leaders on and off the court. Hopefully she will continue a trend of getting some good players from this area.”
The athletic senior, who also played softball and soccer during her time at Chattooga, said she is undecided on a major.
Trion Golf (Trion, GA)
Going into the start of the 2012 Region 6-A golf tournament at the Coosa Country Club in Rome, few people had ever heard the name John Rollins.
That would all change some six hours later.
Only a sophomore, the Trion Bulldog carded a 74 on a cold, windy day before winning the region title with a birdie on the first playoff hole.
He hasn’t looked back since.
Now one of the most successful prep golfers in the northwest Georgia area, Rollins made his future plans officially on Wednesday by signing papers to continue his golfing career at Georgia Northwestern Technical College.
“I wanted to start (college) off small and work my way up,” he explained. “I knew one of my good buddies, Lanier (Guest) from Gordon Lee recently signed with them and I thought it might be a good place for us to kind of team up. We’ve worked good in the past together and hopefully it will work out for us.”
“He’s a great player and he’s always in the hunt, no matter where or what tournaments he plays in,” said Rollins’ future GNTC golf coach Jared Willerson. “He’s always grinding out there and he never quits. I love his swing and the way he hits the golf ball. He can be a little streaky with the putter, but he’s such a good ball-striker that I think he will excel at the next level.”
Rollins went on the state tournament as an individual in 2012 and placed fourth, but he improved on that in a big way as a junior. After winning the Area 4-A public school title by a stroke over Guest at Ringgold’s Battlefield Golf Club last April, Rollins shot a 1-under 71 at Double Oaks Golf Club in Commerce to win the individual state crown.
Last week, he shot a 74 at Battlefield in this year’s Area 4-A tournament to tie for the individual title before finishing tied for second in a playoff.
“The big thing is that he already knows how to win,” Willerson said.
“When the competition is better, that’s when he steps up his game and that’s something that defines him. He knows how to rise to the occasion.”
Rollins, who began playing golf at the age of five after getting introduced to the sport by his father, said his area title as a sophomore was a turning point for his game.
“For a while, I had trouble playing front of people,” he said. “But after playing in a few junior tournaments in LaFayette, I started to step up. (Winning area as a sophomore) was like a taste of blood and I knew it was time to really start practicing and doing what I could.
Then I won area and state the next year.
“It’s been a long road, but a fun ride. I’m glad I get to step up to the next level.”
Trion golf coach Doug Wilson said the Bobcats were getting first and foremost a fine young man.
“John has a lot of determination and a great swing,” he said. “I think he’ll help them out right from the start in his very first year. He’s got a good work ethic and he should do well for them.”
Rollins said he undecided on a field of study in college, but is considering welding.