SPRINGFIELD — The Effingham County volleyball team entered a Region 2-AAAAAA showdown match with Statesboro on Sept. 22 hoping to show how far it has come this season.
The Rebels left knowing they still have a ways to go.
ECHS played well but lost to the Blue Devils 2-0 (25-22, 25-17) and failed to clinch the No. 1 seed in the region tournament that will be held in Springfield on Oct. 16.
Statesboro claimed the top seeding and finished undefeated in region play (6-0) by beating South Effingham and Glynn Academy the next day.
The Rebels ended 4-2, tied with Glynn Academy for the second-best region record. Richmond Hill also has two region losses with a match against winless Bradwell Institute still remaining.
The top four in the region tournament advance to the Class AAAAAA state tournament.
“It’ll be a showdown to see who gets one through four (seedings for state) and rightfully so,” said ECHS coach Brittany Lein about the region’s parity. “It’ll come down to who executes better that day and maybe my girls can grow three or four inches by then.”
Growing taller in the next three weeks is probably out of the question but the Rebels still have five competitive non-region matches to grow from starting Wednesday against highly regarded Savannah Christian.
ECHS has shown a lot of growth after opening the season with six straight losses in August. Among the early setbacks was a 2-1 decision to Statesboro.
This time, the Rebels hit two lulls at the most inopportune times. ECHS led 11-10 before the Blue Devils went on a 10-3 run in the first set.
The Rebels were within a point, trailing 16-15 in the second set before Statesboro pulled away with eight consecutive points.
“You can’t be a consistently successful team by always fighting from behind,” Lein said. “At some point, you have to fight to stay in the game. We just need to execute better. We’re still making way too many errors for this point in the season.”
ECHS rallied in the first set. Big hits by Anaysia Williams and Murphy Boyett highlighted a 7-1 Rebel run and tied the set at 21, forcing a Statesboro timeout.
But ECHS errors down the stretch gave the momentum back to the Blue Devils.
The second set played out similarly. A 10-2 Statesboro run built a 16-10 Blue Devil lead, but the Rebels fought back with five unanswered points.
Eight consecutive Blue Devil points followed.
“I think both teams came out strong but communication errors killed us, in the second (set) especially,” ECHS senior libero Hayley Sexton said. “I think we got down on ourselves but overall I thought both teams played well.”