Putnam leads Wildcats to success

Sarah Putnam

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County volleyball coach Sarah Putnam noticed a certain closeness amongst her team on and off the court this past season.

That camaraderie, which Putnam said was a byproduct of the many years that most of the Wildcats’ players had spent playing volleyball together, was something that gained a foothold for Warren County early in the fall sports season and was more prominent to Putnam than in years past.

“With girls sometimes it’s difficult to get everybody to mesh, but we were able to do that early on this season and it really benefited us both when we would win and when we would lose,” Putnam said recently. “The girls really picked each other up, what I would say hold the rope. When a girl got down the rest of us just held that rope for her until she refocused.

“It helped when we had a couple players who were having off nights. Everybody else was just able to step in and work that much harder to pick up any dysfunction that we may have in our play.”

That closeness led Warren County to success in 2014. The Wildcats finished the season with a 16-10 record and ended the regular season in third place in the Bull Run District. Warren County also won opening-round games in both the Bull Run District and Conference 28 tournaments, and won a match via sweep eight times this season.

For her efforts in leading the Wildcats on the court, Putnam has been named The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2014 Volleyball Coach of the Year.

Warren County’s season came to an end in the Conference 28 tournament semifinal round, where the Wildcats lost to William Monroe for the fourth time in 2014. But the Wildcats did win two postseason matches this season, a feat that Putnam said was important for Warren County to accomplish.

“It boosts your confidence and it boosts your morale knowing that you’ve worked so hard in the regular season … to be able to prove yourself yet again,” Putnamn said. “A lot of times we’re facing teams like William Monroe. This year we faced them three or four times and just to come back and keep fighting against them and never giving up is a testament to the girls’ attitude and dedication.”

Warren County’s win in the conference quarterfinal round was particularly encouraging for Putnam, as it came against a Rock Ridge team that had beaten the Wildcats 2-0 at a tournament earlier in the season. The Wildcats avenged that loss by beating the Phoenix, 3-1, on the road on Nov. 3, a win that affirmed Warren County’s improvement on the court as the season progressed.

“We did get that validation because we took that loss against Rock Ridge — as we do with all of our losses, really — and we said, ‘What did we do wrong?’ And then we worked in practice the days before and we were able to overcome that,” said Putnam, who noted the Wildcats’ communication on the court as a key strength this season.

Putnam, who just finished up her third season as Warren County’s varsity coach after previously serving as the head coach of the JV squad, credited the efforts of the entire staff as a whole for much of the success the Wildcats have had over the last several years.

“My coaching staff has been excellent through this entire time and we’ve really focused on developing fundamentals at the JV level, which is huge,” Putnam said. “It makes my job a lot easier at the varsity level when those girls have those fundamentals.”

Warren County’s ability to develop players at the JV level will become all the more important next season as the Wildcats will lose four-year starter and 2014 Conference 28 Player of the Year Autumn Troxell, as well as fellow seniors Arie Roth and Alyssa Pauley, the latter of which shined as the “team motivator” this season, Putnam said.

Despite the loss of those three seniors, Warren County should return an experienced group that includes eight current juniors.

“I have a great group of girls. I’m definitely going to miss the seniors,” said Putnam. “I’ve got a big junior class coming up. I only had three seniors leave and the rest are all juniors, so we will have some returning experience that I’m looking to capitalize on next year.

“I’m very excited because of that returning experience. We’ve got a decent sized 10th-grade class coming up too, so it will definitely be interesting next season to see what the girls can do.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com