RINCON — The South Effingham volleyball team finished as the runner-up in Saturday’s Region 2-AAAAA tournament.
The Mustangs were close to reclaiming the region crown but the Blue Devils defense was too much to overcome as they dropped three consecutive sets.
“Statesboro has defeated us twice earlier in the season so we knew it would be a battle,” South Effingham head coach Chancey Garrett said. “I do feel like it’s been an even matchup between us and Statesboro this year. They’ve got some players that do a lot good things and their defense works really well.
“They picked up a lot of what we were sending over. We had some errors and that is what made a difference in the score.”
The Mustangs defeated Ware County before advancing to the title game. Now South Effingham will turn its attention to Ola and a opening-round state tournament match. Ola is just 8-26 but Garrett believes records don’t matter at playoff time.
“They play some very competitive games,” Garrett said. “They play some teams that are very good. Everywhere up in Atlanta is a tough area to be in.
“I don’t want to put too much weight into their record. I want to analyze the teams they’ve beat and who they lost to.”
This year’s state tournament involves a different and more challenging format. The Mustangs have the option to play two state tournament rounds in the same day. The tourney will open with the field of 32 and if the Mustangs defeat Ola, they could play in the Sweet 16 later that evening. It makes for a demanding day physically but will reduce the amount of travel time and provide the team with much-needed rest should it advance to the Elite 8.
“That’s a lot of pressure that day but it’s easier that way when it comes to traveling,” Garrett said. “It works to our benefit if we can knock them both out, but we have to win that first game first.”
Garrett encouraged her team to channel its emotions from its region championship loss to the postseason.
“I think the Statesboro game really set the tone for me because we wanted that game so bad and we worked so hard for it,” Garrett said. “That’s a really tough loss when you give it all you’ve got and then you still don’t come out with the victory. I told the girls Saturday to use the emotions they had coming out of the tournament and use that for state because our season is not over.
“Hopefully, those feelings will make them more determined. I think as a team we are doing really well. We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season. We were mixed with wins and losses. I think toward the end of the season we started getting back on a winning pattern. All of the girls working together is what has made us successful towards the end.”
Effingham County placed third in the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament. The Rebels dropped three sets to Richmond Hill (25-9, 25-12, 25-16) but defeated Brunswick 25-16 in all three sets.
“We didn’t play our best against Richmond Hill,” Lein said. “We struggled in a lot of aspects — passing and defense. It was an all-around struggle.
“Brunswick was a little bit better. We came out with a little bit more energy. We have to give 110 percent. We had some ups and downs. We had some good plays and some good hits. I think (Cailin Pritchard) came out of the Brunswick game with 15 kills.”
The Rebels will travel to Sequoyah this weekend and will take on a 26-12 Tucker team. Lein likes her team’s chances as it will face off against the Region 4-AAAAAA Tigers.
“I think as long as we show up and play, I think we will have a good chance of winning,” she said. “It should be a good match and we should have a good chance. But we have to come to play.”