GUYTON — Saturday was filled with highs and lows for the South Effingham volleyball team, which traveled to Buford to complete Class AAAAA tournament.
The Lady Mustangs took down Ola 3-2 in the round of 32 but fell 3-0 against Buford in the Sweet 16.
The schedule afforded South Effingham the opportunity to complete two rounds of the tournament in one day but it also made for a grueling period physically and mentally. The Lady Mustangs fought through a two-hour encounter against Ola in a match that went to five sets. South Effingham jumped to a 2-0 lead but Ola fought back and won the next two sets before the Lady Mustangs secured the victory.
South Effingham head coach Chancey Garrett breathed a sigh of relief and recalled the collective excitement from her team as it advanced to the next round.
“It was a very intense game,” Garrett said. “It was incredible. The energy was amazing.
“All the girls started jumping up and down and running on the court. It was awesome. They worked so hard for that and it finally paid off with a big win.”
Leading up to the playoffs, Garrett changed the training regimen in practice. The decision paid off as the Lady Mustangs were able to power through the long match against Ola.
“We kicked up our conditioning,” Garrett said. “We really stepped it up in practice and we made practice more intense to prepare physically. Mentally, we did a lot of high-pressure drills to uphold that mental stamina of having to work through a long day.
“We made sure the girls had good food and a lot of rest. We got to the gym an hour and a half before the game to get our bodies moving and warmed up. It was like I saw a brand new team play. They had energy and passion and they brought it all out to the court.”
In the Sweet 16, the Lady Mustangs faced a tall task against Buford, which has won two state titles in the last four years.
In her team’s final moments on the court, Garrett reflected on what was a gratifying season.
“After we lost to Buford, we were in the huddle,” she said. “I was choked up and they were crying. I am sad to see them go. Anna Freeman, Ginger Vorel, Katie Cartrette, Michaela Zorbo — they are really close to my heart.
“My first-year teaching and coaching was their freshman year of high school. I’ve gotten to see them grow from freshmen into players that made it to the Sweet 16 and state playoffs. I am so proud of them.”