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Chestatee’s volleyball team made school-history last week when it secured a first-round playoff victory over Jonesboro.
The 3-1 decision was the school’s first-ever playoff win and secured an appearance in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. Tonight, Chestatee makes the long trip to greater Savannah when its visits No. 1-seed South Effingham.
“We don’t know much about them. The only two teams that overlap from our schedule is Heritage, from Conyers, and Jonesboro,” Chestatee head coach Julie Rushing said. “We beat both of them, and looking at those teams’ schedules, they beat South Effingham.
“The girls are not intimated. Looking at the scores, they know they have a chance.”
When the Lady War Eagles (22-14) take the court tonight at 6 p.m., they’ll look to do what they’ve done all season — play team-oriented volleyball. And one player that will be leading the charge tonight is junior Tyler Bennett, the captain of Chestatee’s volleyball team.
In last week’s win over Jonesboro, it was Bennett that was all over the court, setting up her teammates with kill opportunities, keeping balls in play, and scoring points. She finished the night with 13 assists, four kills and two aces for the Lady War Eagles, efforts that had her named The Times’ Athlete of the Week.
“(Tyler) is all over the place and part of that is the stuff we do in practice,” Rushing said of Bennett following last Wednesday’s win.
“We have drills where she has to be the one that touches the second ball, no matter if there is someone else to help her. She has to get it because it makes her move her feet and take ownership. She is quick and she is just a great athlete, most of all.”
Bennett definitely took ownership and helped lead her team to the win over Jonesboro. And while many around Chestatee won’t admit it, saying it has been a team effort all season, it has largely been Bennett’s leadership on and off the court this season that has the Lady War Eagles four wins away from winning a state championship.
Bennett, a first team all-area selection, has taken the role of team captain to heart, says Rushing.
“All of her teammates trust her,” Rushing said. “She takes everyone’s opinion to heart. She listens to her teammates, on and off the court. That is a big deal. I’ve had different setters at different schools where their teammtes didn’t trust them. But (Tyler’s) teammates trust her and that is a really big deal.”
While it has been a team effort on the court for Chestatee this season, it’s been Bennett’s quickness and ability to set her teammates up for points that has made the difference on multiple occasions, like last week against Jonesboro.
“This year, it has been an overall team effort this year. Nobody takes the blame but nobody takes the credit,” Rushing said. “(Tyler) is one of the driving forces and has been since she started in the program as an eighth grader.
“She is quick. She is a quick thinker. She can make quick and smart decisions. As a setter, you have to be able to do that. She has to make sure she gets the ball to a hitter and give them a chance.”