SPRINGFIELD — They were invited to the party so they might as well have a good time.
That’s the approach Effingham County coach Brittany Lein wants her volleyball team to take in the Class AAAAAA tournament. They Lady Rebels aren’t adorned with a pretty record or gaudy ranking but they can still match — or exceed — their feat of advancing to the Elite Eight in 2017.
The Lady Rebels, seeded third in Region 2-AAAAAA, will open against Greenbrier at Drew in Riverdale on Saturday.
“We’ve had a really good last couple of weeks,” Effingham County coach Brittany Lein said. “We’ve been playing a lot better.”
The Lady Rebels lost their region tournament match to Richmond Hill last week in four close sets. Effingham County prevailed in the first one 25-23 before dropping the next three 25-22, 25-22 and 25-23.
The Lady Wildcats, seeded No. 2 behind Glynn Academy, trailed 11-4 in the last set before staging a furious comeback.
“We got killed by them all season except for the very first match” Lein said. “Since then, we have had lots of injuries. My starting setter (Rachel Bass) was playing on a bad groin today. She was almost in tears because she hurt so bad.”
Despite the setback, Lein was pleased with the moxie the Lady Rebels displayed.
“I thought they played their hearts out,” she said. “I’m not disappointed in any way how they played. I told them, ‘We lost the game but, guess what, we are still going to state.”
The Lady Rebels have emerged from the depths of despair caused by senior libero Andrea Garcia’s early season-ending knee injury and the absence of other players. They were rocked by the losses and it took them awhile to regain their footing.
“I think the team has really come together the last couple of weeks,” Lein said. “I think we’ve gotten over the, ‘This person is out’ or ‘This person is not here.’ We’ve gotten over making excuses about why we can’t produce on the court.
“I think we realize that it’s now or never. We have to do it or your season ends a lot sooner than you planned.”
Lein reminded her team that the 2017 Lady Rebels advanced to the Elite Eight as a No. 2 seed.
“We’re going in as the three seed but it is what it is,” she said. ““We’ve had a good season. We’ve had a lot of bumps along the way and we are still having bumps.”