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Rebels thwart Mustangs in non-region match
Haley Sexton
Effingham County’s Haley Sexton (3) and Kennedy Milton watch as a South Effingham shot sails out of boounds Sept. 28. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Kara Williams
Effingham County’s Murphy Boyett (10) hits the ball past the outstretched hands of South Effingham’s Kara Williams on Sept. 28. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — The second volleyball meeting of the season between Effingham County and South Effingham on Sept. 28 didn’t have region implications.

But with the Region 2-AAAAA Championships looming, trending upward became focal points for both schools.

And both had their moments of good play and bad before the Rebels swung shifting momentum back to their side and won a third-set tiebreaker 15-4 to claim a 2-1 victory against the visiting Mustangs.

ECHS (16-16) won the first set easily 25-12 and looked like it would make it a short night.

Then came the second set. SEHS jumped ahead 6-0 and led by eight, 13-5, before the Rebels closed to within 17-16.

But Riley Stringer’s tip at the net found an open spot, beginning the Mustangs on a 5-1 spurt en route to a 25-22 second-set win.

It was an up-and-down performance ECHS assistant Jennifer Jordan has seen before.

“For whatever reason, we like doing that,” said Jordan, subbing for head coach Brittany Lein, who was sick. “The first set we came out strong but in the second set our defense was lacking and (SEHS) found holes in the middle.”

Cailin Pritchard’s block, Ansley Coleman’s serve that trickled over the net and Murphy Boyett’s kill highlighted the Rebels’ 6-0 run in the third set to turn a 2-2 score into 8-2.

Despite the ending, the Mustangs and their first-year coach Jenna Gerbasi had a lot to be encouraged about. They recently snapped a long losing streak with four wins in a tournament during the previous weekend, then beat Bradwell Institute for their first region win.

Before their match with Effingham County, the Mustangs defeated New Hampstead in two sets, 25-20, 26-24 — winning the second set by scoring the final four points after trailing 24-22.

Twelve days earlier, SEHS lost to ECHS 25-19, 25-20. This time the Mustangs took a set and had moments of dominant play.

Brianna Coffee had two spectacular blocks at the net during the match, libero Reese Rexroat was a steadying influence on the backline, and Zoe Long finished the second set with a kill.

“We’re starting to get that momentum,” Gerbasi said. “You saw that in the second (set). We had that energy. They were all in. I just have to figure out how to get them to always play like that. If we can get that energy harnessed, we’ll be OK.”

Despite a rough season, SEHS (6-15) has taken a set from Richmond Hill, Effingham County and region regular-season champion Statesboro.

The Region 2-AAAAAA tournament play-in round is Oct. 14 with the Final Four (and seeding for the Class AAAAAA state tournament) on Oct. 16 at ECHS.