High School Volleyball
Lady Indians denied trip to quarterfinals
by Doug Gorman
It didn’t end the way East Coweta first-year head coach Amber McClure had hoped.
Still, when they took the volleyball net down for the last time this season at John Thrower Gymnasium after Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss (18-25, 21-25, 25-23 21-25) to No 2-state-ranked South Forsyth in the second round of the Class AAAAAA tournament, McClure couldn’t help but look toward the future.
The No. 8-ranked Lady Indians (43-8) finished the season with several high marks, including winning both the Area 2-AAAAAA title and county titles en route to a school-record 43 victories.
The run was led by seniors April Schmitt, Savannah Freeman and Sydney Mauer, who played a spirited final match that saw the team try to rally from two sets down.
“I have never been prouder of a team,” McClure said. “I thought we served very aggressively tonight. That was the key to our game plan. They are so tough at the net, but I thought we handled it well.”
Down 2-0, East Coweta tied game three at 14 on Haylea Mannebach ace and never trailed from there.
Deep serves by Mauer during the set and several kills by Jessi Bartholomew, who went into the state tournament as the Class AAAAAA leader in kills, helped East Coweta push the lead in the third set to 23-19.
South Forsyth made a late run in the third set and closed the gap to 24-23, before the Lady Indians won the final point of the game to stay alive.
The Lady War Eagles advanced to the Elite 8 with a four-point victory in the fourth set.
East Coweta tied the fourth set at 3-all early, but South Forsyth took the lead for good on its next point.
After the Lady War Eagles pushed the lead out to 17-10 late in the match, East Coweta made one final run, cutting the lead to 22-20.
South Forsyth closed out the contest winning three of the last four points.
“When we turned up the heat, South Forsyth became scrappier and scrappier,” McClure said. “For such a great net team, they became very defensive minded. That is a hard one-two punch to overcome.”
Bartholomew finished with 23 kills and 11 digs. Sydney Winters and Mannebach finished with five kills each. Mannebach also had eight digs.
Dominique Ingram closed out her season with five blocks. Schmitt added eight digs.
Despite the disappointing loss, McClure is convinced a strong volleyball foundation has been built at East Coweta.
“I think our girls leave with that hunger in their belly,” McClure said. “They know they have put East Coweta volleyball on the map. They leave with pride and with their heads held high knowing they won 43 matches, and no one expected them to do win that many.”
East Coweta spent part of the year sneaking up on people.
“It took three quarters of the year to get ranked even though we beat four ranked teams,” McClure said. “Being behind the eight ball at times this year really makes them proud, so that should really inspire them coming back next year.”
McClure is already gearing up for next season.
“We have some holes to fill,” she said. “I am going to be looking for them to play with a club team and to condition and come back in shape so a five-set match doesn’t faze them.”