Athlete of the Week: Cooper brings versatility to court for Rams

Cassie Cooper

STRASBURG – When Cassie Cooper joined Strasburg High School’s junior-varsity volleyball team as an eighth grader in 2012, she did so strictly as a hitter. Now a senior for the Rams’ varsity squad, she does a little bit of everything.

The end of the 2016 regular season is approaching and, with four games remaining until the Conference 35 tournament, Cooper ranks among the Rams’ leaders in most statistical categories.

She seems comfortable on the court now, but Cooper said her journey from the JV squad – where she began developing her skill as a setter in ninth grade – to the present took some getting used to.

“Transitioning from JV, it’s such a slower pace from varsity, and being expected to be parallel to the net, get your sets on the net, it’s way different for JV,” Cooper said Wednesday. “I just had to learn really quickly.”

She has, thanks in part to what Cooper called a good relationship with Rams head coach Suzanne Mathias and the mentor role played by former Ram setter Haley Copeland, who graduated this past spring.

Cooper, voted a team captain by her teammates and named the Rams’ floor captain by Mathias prior to the season, starts each game as the Rams’ primary setter – and rotates into a hitting position as each game wears on – and is Strasburg’s assist leader this season. Through last week’s matches, Cooper also ranked second on the team in kills (50) and service aces (19), and her 71 total points accounted for through the Rams’ first 14 matches trailed only Cortney McDonald’s 75.

In a home match against Shenandoah County rival Central on Oct. 3, Cooper, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for Oct. 3-9, displayed her versatility much as she has all season long. She smashed 10 kills against the Falcons while chipping in four aces as Strasburg claimed a 3-1 victory.

“It was a really big confidence booster to us because we were already doubting ourselves about other games, and they’re our rival so we just wanted to win against them,” Cooper said of the victory over the Falcons. “When we won we were just really, really excited and happy that we did.”

Cooper’s 10 kills led all players in the victory, but she was quick to credit her teammates with the scoring output.

“Having our back row really saves us. They get the ball for us and then having Hannah (Alexander) set for me when I’m in front, she’s always able to get us on the net and get us some kills,” Cooper said.

Central didn’t allow the victory to come easy. After the Rams rallied for a 25-22 victory in the opening game, the Falcons came right back to even the match with a victory in the second set. It wasn’t until a 25-9 win in game three that Strasburg was able to completely grasp the momentum and run away with the victory.

“I think we’re starting out so slow and then we’re getting down on ourselves,” Cooper said. “In that game we started slow but we came back strong, then we realized it can be good too so we just picked it up.”

Strasburg wasn’t able to maintain momentum from the win over Central, however. The Rams have lost four straight since then, including back-to-back Conference 35 road losses to Clarke County and Madison County this week. Strasburg has been swept in each of its losses during the skid.

“We’re playing not as a team right now. We need to come together to work as one,” Cooper said. “We’re playing as individuals and we just need to work our way to playing (as) a team to win our last four games and then go into conference.”

Strasburg has Bull Run District games against George Mason, Warren County, William Monroe and Central remaining on its regular season schedule, with Mason and Central also representing conference contests.

“Hopefully we can pull it together, because I mean we all wanna go far this year,” Cooper said. “We all wanna go to conference, we wanna make it out of the first round.”

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