COLUMBUS — There were a few tears on Saturday after the Chestatee volleyball team’s loss at top-seeded Columbus ended a magical season, but only a few.
Mostly, there were smiles, handshakes and pats on the back. The 3-0 sweep in the Class AAAA quarterfinals ended the Lady War Eagles’ season, but it was the finest season in the school’s young history.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Chestatee coach Julie Rushing said on a handful of occasions. “It’s been fun. That’s the one word to sum up this season.
“It was awesome making it to the Elite Eight. I’ve been a part of some other good teams, but this one is probably the most memorable.”
The match itself was fairly straightforward. Chestatee hung tight in the opening game, but once Columbus hit its stride, the Lady War Eagles had trouble mustering a counterattack.
They were as close to stealing a game from the Lady Blue Devils as any team has been thus far in the playoffs, playing them to an 18-18 tie late in Game 1. They had rallied back from a 17-12 deficit, scoring six of the next seven points to put a charge into its fans, many of whom made the two-and-a-half-hour trek south.
With one authoritative kill by middle hitter Brianna Gogins, however, Columbus retook control and didn’t relent the rest of the match. It notched seven of the next nine points to take Game 1 25-20 and didn’t allow Chestatee to string together more than two points at a time the rest of the match, finishing with wins of 25-13 and 25-10 in Games 2 and 3, respectively.
Chestatee was led in the loss by Melanie Smith (5 kills, 3 digs), Grace Brown (7 kills, 4 digs, 3 aces), Breezy Walker (2 kills, 7 assists) and Tyler Bennett (2 kills, 10 assists).
The season was filled with plenty of highlights for Chestatee: Making the playoffs for the second year in a row and second time in program history, winning its first playoff match and advancing to the quarterfinals, among others.
The good news for it is that it loses only two seniors from a successful squad and can use 2013 as a major stepping stone for the future.
“It’s a great stepping stone,” Rushing said. “It’s something the community sees and can get excited about. Chestatee is still a young school, so we can use this to continue building excitement in our program.
“We’re sad it’s over, but the season was a great success.”
And there’s no shame in seeing the season end against a team like Columbus, which was the state runner-up in 2012 and is the top seed in the final eight this season. A traditional power, the Lady Blue Devils again have an inside track to a state championship.
They will play Sandy Creek in the state semifinals on Wednesday. Marist and River Ridge will play in the other semifinal.