Through the first two rounds of the state playoffs, South Forsyth volleyball had yet to be tested, let alone frightened. The Lady War Eagles had cruised past Kennesaw Mountain and Pope with ease, putting forth impressive displays of the wealth of their talent. But South was forced to find the depth of its resolve in a 25-19, 25-23, 25-18 victory against Mountain View on Saturday in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals.
The backbone of South (40-7) was put to the test. In Mountain View (32-17), the Lady War Eagles encountered a team with a dynamic outside hitter in University of Alabama commitment Kayla Whitner (12 kills). They encountered a team with an athletic and imposing block comprised of Whitner, Lauren Briggman and Nataleigh Kumeh. They encountered a team willing to doggedly scrap. They encountered a worthy opponent.
Forced to adapt to its circumstances, South found new angles on the court to exploit and new resolve in itself. The Lady War Eagles fought back against Mountain View and their own offensive struggles to nonetheless reach the state semifinals for the second time in the past three seasons.
South will play Harrison on Wednesday at home. The winner will advance to the state championship Oct. 30 at Marietta High School.
“They forced us to play uncomfortably, which is exactly what they wanted us to do,” South head coach Kelly Wren said. “I thought they were very well-coached, they were ready for us. For the girls to be able to adjust and come back and win this match is huge. It’s actually better for us. There is nothing easy about the next step and the final step. This was a great match for us to play, because they needed to be uncomfortable.”
South’s most uncomfortable moment came in the second set. The Lady War Eagles had become a well-oiled offensive team over the course of the season capable of striking opponents from all angles. But early on no angle worked for South. By the time Wren called her first timeout of the match, South trailed 8-3 with more unforced errors (five) than points.
Just minutes later, Wren needed another timeout. The Lady War Eagles had misfired on four more hits and Mountain View led 14-6. South was adrift.
“We had to adjust to what they were allowing us to do,” Wren said. “When we realized what that was, then we could do that.”
Two kills each from Avery Kline, Shea McNamara and Amanda Nugent sparked a 9-1 run to help South tie the game at 15-15. Lily Kincaid gave the Lady War Eagles their first lead of the set at 19-18 on a deft tip. Mountain View tied it again at 23-23, but Kline closed it out with back-to-back kills right through the Lady Bear’s block.
“I feel like we were a little nervous playing right there,” Kline said. “We just had to keep up the energy. Having a lot of energy helped a lot. That’s how we got back up.”
Kline provided the energy South needed to finish off Mountain View in the third set.
The road to that moment had been tense and tight. South led by as much as 17-11, but Mountain View responded to cut the lead to 19-17. The Lady Bears came back for more on the next point, spraying hit after hit, but Giana Frangipane blocked one and Kline blocked another.
When Kline took a third block and spiked it, the gym burst with noise.
“It was a great feeling,” Kline said, “but it’s nothing I could’ve done without my teammates. They’ve always got my back.”
Kline (seven kills) and Nugent (22 kills) did the rest, scoring South’s final five points to restore order and keep the Lady War Eagles’ season alive. Erin Yeatman led South’s defense with 29 digs. Savian Jordan had 13, while Carlie McCravy had 11.
“They fought the entire time,” Wren said. “They were fighting themselves as much as they were fighting the opponent. I think that is something they needed to experience in the postseason, because it’s not going to be easy the entire way.”