By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD — The volleyball teams of Effingham County and South Effingham showed a little bounce Thursday afternoon.
The Rebels (15-9) bounced back from a discouraging loss five days earlier to win their final two Region 2-AAAAAA matches and claim a No. 2 seeding in next month’s seven-team region tournament.
South (13-11) continued its bounce back from a four-win season a year ago and will take a No. 4 seeding into the region tourney.
“We’ve regrouped,” said ECHS coach Brittany Lein after sweeping Brunswick, 25-17, 25-9, and the Mustangs, 25-14, 25-14. “We’ve had a lot of talks and (the girls) wanted to talk. I think we’re excited about where we will go, whether we’re first in the region or not. I just keep encouraging them that we are a great team.”
The Rebels dropped a key match to Lakeside (Evans) on Sept. 11 and, with region teams playing each other only once in matches counting in the regular-season standings, saw their aspirations of being a No. 1 seed end.
But ECHS easily defeated Brunswick, which was missing several players because of the Pirates’ homecoming festivities. And the Rebels showcased their hitting talents while overpowering South. Senior middle blocker Cailin Pritchard had six kills in the first set and junior outside hitter Murphy Boyett had six kills during the Rebels’ final 11 points of the second set.
“Murphy had a phenomenal game,” Lein said. “We set her the ball a lot and she did things with it. … Tonight, collectively, we played well — from passing to hitting, the setting was good, our serves were clean. When we have that many people playing that well, in my opinion, we’re unbeatable. We can compete with the best of the best.”
South struggled with its rival but displayed its year-long improvement against Brunswick, sinking the Pirates 25-16, 25-12.
Last year, Brunswick beat the Mustangs in straight sets.
This time, South went on a 15-5 run to rally in the first set and jumped out to an 11-2 lead to begin the second set.
“From last year to this year, we’ve made incredible strides,” SEHS coach Jenna Gerbasi said. “Effingham County is older and they’ve been working together longer so that’s an advantage for them. You can’t get down and you have to figure out how to get (their spurts) out of your head.”
Phillips, Morgan place first for SEHS
South Effingham’s Tyler Phillips tamed the field at the Honey Ridge Plantation 5-kilometer at the Farm race Saturday morning for his third straight win at the venue.
The junior, who won two races at the 300-acre plantation last season, finished with a time of 16:25.47 to beat teammate Julian Howard (16:53.20) by more than 27 seconds.
In the girls race, the Mustangs’ sophomore Magdeline Morgan claimed the top spot with a time of 21:06.15.
Both the SEHS boys and girls teams finished first. Effingham County was fourth in the seven-team boys field and the Rebels were fourth in the six-team girls field.
Joining Phillips and Howard in the SEHS boys top five scorers were Caiden Mason (5th, 17:47.68), Zane Bell (10th, 18:29.98) and Domenic Harrison (31st, 2005.20).
Scoring team points for South’s girls were Morgan, Patricia Backlund (6th, 22:40.78), Brianna Barber (8th, 22:45.91), Mia Fitzpatrick (9th, 22:53.02) and Anna Katherine Raley (16th, 23:49.90).
Levi Thomas led the Rebel boys with a third-place finish at 16:57.0. Others among ECHS’ top five were Brevin Bergman (7th, 18:17.83), Robbie Velasquez (16th, 19:06.77), Tristan Kurtz (32nd, 20:19.16) and Ayden Wine (35th, 20:37.27).
For ECHS’ girls, Brooke Maseda led the team with a time of 21:33.32 and a third-place finish overall.
Others contributing team points were: Shelby Hilton (11th, 23:23.56), Ivey Rahn (25th, 25:39.45), Ellie Forwood (39th, 28:37.89) and Emily Timms (40th, 29:41.58).