Posted: Wednesday, October 17th 2012 at 11:32am
Area volleyball teams excited after storming into state bracket
By Morgan Lee Editor
Deb Eidson is not exactly sure what to expect this week when her Johnson volleyball team plays host to Northwest Whitfield in the first round of the state playoffs.
All the Lady Knights coach knows is that after storming to the Area 8-AAAA championship on Saturday her team feels ready for just about whatever the bracket can throw its way.
“These girls have worked as hard as they can all season, and it’s been a phenomenal year,” Eidson said. “We really have nothing to lose in the playoffs; after last week, all of this is just extra for us right now.
“Our goal is to come out with a win and just see who we play next week.”
Thanks to an incredible rally in the 8-AAAA bracket, the Lady Knights enter state play as a No. 1 seed, prepping for a Wednesday first round showdown with the No. 4 seed from Area 7-AAAA (Northwest Whitfield).
“Saturday was an amazing day; we were so done, exhausted really, but we found a way to come back and get it done,” Eidson said after Johnson rebounded from a defeat to Walnut Grove to edge Chestatee and then fight past Walnut Grove in a rematch in the title showdown. “We’ve got some talent that has been together for a while now, it was just a matter of mental toughness, and that came through for us this year.”
The eight other northeast Georgia teams embarking on state playoff runs this week share similar storylines, including East Hall, which battled its way into the state postseason for the first time in program history after fighting off North Hall in Area 7-AAA for the right to keep playing.
“The kids finally bought into the thought that ‘we can win.’ That was the toughest battle I fought,” Lady Vikings coach Ted Deppe said, who began the process of developing the East Hall program six years ago. “Four years prior to me coming here they had won one match, so it took a long time to turn around the mindset of the players.”
Deppe and the Lady Vikings showed plenty improvement last season, playing their way to the team’s first ever 20-win campaign. Yet taking that next step wasn’t easy, especially playing in an ultra-competitive Area 5-AAA -- which features five teams in the Class AAA top 10, including Blessed Trinity at No. 1, St. Pius at No. 3, Buford at No. 7, East Hall No. 8 and West Hall (which didn’t even qualify for state) at No. 10.
“(Area 5-AAA) could have four teams in the Elite Eight -- if we (East Hall) can find a way past Oconee County,” Deppe said of his first round opponent, which is ranked No. 5. “It won’t be easy, but we’re going in thinking we have a shot.
“We’re the underdog; the pressure is not on us, and a victory would be the icing on the cake.”
East Hall features All-Area selection Tarryn Long, as well as Kara Hix, a junior libero, who broke the state record for digs this season.
“All the girls believe in each other, and when we step out on the floor we believe we’re going to win,” Deppe said. “I don’t know that we even have an MVP this season. Everyone’s played so well, and we’re just excited. We kind of expected to be here, but we knew we would have to be at our best to get here too.”
Certainly teams like Lakeview -- back in the state playoff for the first time since 2008 -- Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Chestatee, Buford, Jefferson and Rabun County also know they will have to be at their best beginning with today’s first round games.
“We have six seniors, and they’ve all pretty much played for me since they were sophomores,” Eidson said of a group that features Savannah Turk and Lindsey Anderson (team captains) and Karis Sloan (named 8-AAAA MVP), LeJavian Ratliff, Christina Petit and Heather Luc. “This group has worked as hard as it can all year, and I know they’ll do the same in the playoffs.”
Eidson hopes that the championship will continue the ascent of volleyball at Johnson.
“I hope it encourages more athletes to come out for volleyball,” Eidson said. “I’m really encouraging more girls to play year-round, and something like this might help get that across.”
The move to year-round volleyball has certainly paid dividends for the Lady Vikings -- and for many of the programs around northeast Georgia.
“It’s vital for us to keep improving,” Deppe said. “Playing year-round is a big deal. And we’re trying to make everyone see that.”
Having the kind of success that is growing throughout the area can only help.
FIRST ROUND STATE VOLLEYBALL MATCH-UPS FOR AREA TEAMS
Gainesville (No. 2 seed, Area 8) vs. Creekview (No. 3, Area 7)
Flowery Branch (No. 3, Area 8) at Northview (No. 2, Area 7)
Johnson (No. 1, Area 8) vs. Northwest Whitfield (No. 4, Area 7)
Chestatee (No. 3, Area 8) at Dalton (No. 2, Area 7)
Buford (No. 3, Area 5) at Hart County (No. 2, Area 6)
East Hall (No. 4, Area 5) at Oconee County (No. 1, Area 6)
Rabun County (No. 3, Area 6) at Armuchee (No. 2, Area 5)
Jefferson (No. 4, Area 6) at Calhoun (No. 1, Area 6)
Lakeview Academy (No. 4, Area 6) at Holy Innocents (No. 1, Area 5)
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