Coming into the 2018 volleyball season, East Hall coach Ted Deppe knew what he wouldn’t have coming back.
The departure of outside hitters Niyah Rucker and Macy Thomas, and Summer Lindsey at libero were losses strongly felt in both the power game and resourcefulness on the floor. But flash forward to Monday’s practice, Deppe couldn’t help but brag on this next line of Lady Vikings.
The long-tenured coach has seen a lot in the previous 11 seasons — Multiple Area 7-3 titles and consecutive third-round appearances in the state tournament (2014-15). This group — with only two seniors on the roster and four with little varsity experience — has shown something that has lacked in that span.
“This team, we do something at practice one day and then the next day they’re instantly implementing it,” said Deppe, who first took over the program in 2007. “They don’t think about it too much, they get it, where in year’s past it may take a while. ...It’s the desire that, these girls know we don’t have the firepower we had last year. ...They’ve just come together.”
A little shifting of the pieces here or there, and the result thus far has been a promising start for East Hall. And on Tuesday night, The Lady Vikings logged two more wins following a tri-match played from inside their home gymnasium in Gainesville, improving their mark to 10-2 on the young campaign.
“They’ve taken ownership of this program and really come into the season not knowing what to expect, just because of what we lost,” Deppe said. “These girls play with heart, and that refusal to lose is what’s getting us these wins.”
The Lady Vikings used an M.O. of pure hustle to sandwich a gritty three-set loss to Tallulah Falls with sweeps of Pickens County (25-13,25-17) and Hart County (25-14,25-18) on Tuesday night.
East Hall even had a small opening for a sweep, hanging on for a 26-24 advantage in the opening set against Tallulah Falls. The Lady Indians, however, erased an early 0-4 hole in the second set and used a string of well-timed runs to take it 25-14 and even the match at 1-all.
The Lady Vikings stayed neck-and-neck in the decisive third, extending points and creating kill chances against an Indians unit known for closing the gaps. Down 22-15, East Hall claimed eight of the next 10 points to twice cut it to one. But a shaky service game ultimately kept the Lady Vikings from a win, falling short 25-23.
“It’s always good volleyball. ...They cover the floor so well,” Deppe said of Tallulah Falls. “...And you know, to put balls down against them was good, and really when we started making that run ...to find ways to really earn points — the scrappiness.”
Outside hitter and team captain Tessa Rider paced the Lady Vikings attack with 36 kills while adding 33 digs and four service aces. Janelly Lara supplemented the charge with 17 kills and 39 digs behind her junior teammate, while junior Alysia Teague (48 digs, eight aces) and senior Ivey Shadburn’s (11 digs) double-digit totals on digs helped keep points alive throughout the night. Senior team captain and setter Savannah Thellman dished 57 assists for the Lady Vikings.
East Hall will reset for its next string of matches against Stephens County and White County on Thursday, match play beginning at 5 p.m. in Toccoa.
Even with plenty of volleyball left to play, Deppe hopes this encouraging run continues this season.
“There’s a resiliency about this team,” Deppe said. “These girls expect to win. That’s just an expectation. They come in and they work hard. But we got a long way to go this year. Hopefully we continue to get better.”