Clyde Wylie has witnessed quite a change in the Lakeview Academy volleyball program since taking over as head coach almost three years ago.
Looking back, it hasn’t been so much the work ethic or talent. For the players, it all started with a common objective they set out to achieve during every practice, warm up or match. And they never have to look very far for a reminder according to Wylie.
All he has to do is point at a banner hung inside the school’s gymnasium, with the words clearly printed in bold lettering at the top: “start perfect.”
“If we start perfect, we can adjust,” Wylie said. “We are a very skilled bunch, and we are a very hard-working bunch. But we also execute very, very well.”
“There’s no ‘I hope we won’t mess up,’” he added. “(I tell them), ‘whatever you got, bring it.’ And that’s how they play.”
That approach has translated into Lakeview Academy now being arguably one of the premier programs of the single-A.
Wylie said it has been a product of the Lady Lions charging through a trying 2018 docket that included matchups against a state champion (Calvary Day) and other top-10 programs over several classifications. They generated a 17-match win streak and even logged a win over 10th-ranked Athens Academy before capturing the program’s first Hall County Championship last weekend.
To date, the seventh-ranked Lady Lions (38-10, 4-0 Area 8-A Private) are on pace for a 40-win regular season, making it abundantly clear to Wylie that his squad is locked in for more.
“If you ask the girls, they would say, we should be 45-5,” Wylie smiled. “They are such a neat bunch. ...You have those teams that play hard, you have those teams that are good athletes. But when you get those teams that play hard, are good athletes and execute … It’s the greatest thing from a coaches standpoint.”
On Tuesday night, that execution went on full display inside Walters Athletic Center. Lakeview Academy tallied two more wins, sweeping area opponent Athens Christian (25-9, 25-11) and Jackson County (25-14, 25-14) during a tri-match in Gainesville.
Lakeview got plenty of production from its strong cast of upperclassmen. Seniors Sadie Thrailkill (block) and Madison Dowdy (four aces, block) each fired 11 kills to front the Lady Lions’ attack. In addition to feeding the Lakeview attack with eight assists, junior setter Maddie Child led from the service line with 10 aces. Maddy Towles (seven assists) and Anna Wylie (three kills, three aces) also produced for the Lady Lions, who were able to clinch an undefeated season in league play and the No. 1 seed for Saturday’s Area 8-A Private tournament.
Despite dropping the first two points of the opening set against Athens Christian, the area frontrunner Lady Lions quickly stormed back by taking five straight and did not trail the visiting Eagles for the remainder of the match.
Dowdy, Thrailkill and Anna Wylie each took turns peppering the side of Athens Christian with kills throughout thanks to sound passing. A dominant service game translated into a combined 13 aces for the match — including five from Dowdy during a 8-0 run in the later stages of the first set, and three straight from Child to open the second.
And in the nightcap match, Lakeview was able to slowly pick apart the defense of Jackson County despite slow starts in both sets. The Lady Lions pulled away at 12-all in the first set as they got kills from Mary Michael Callahan, Thrailkill and Wylie, as well as a pair of aces from Hannah Perkins to feed a 13-2 Lakeview run.
Lakeview Academy will host Mill Creek and Forsyth Central on Thursday in Gainesville. The Lady Lions will have home court advantage for Saturday’s area tourney and hope to secure the top playoff seeding before the first round of the state tournament Oct. 20.