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East Hall volleyball proud of history-making run
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East Hall's Ashleigh Burnett warms up before practice Tuesday afternoon as the Vikings prepare to take on Ringgold High in the opening round of the Class AAA volleyball tournament.

Volleyball playoffs

First-round matchups

Class AAAA

No. 4 seed West Laurens at No. 1 seed Buford

No. 4 seed Chestatee at No. 1 seed Veterans

Class AAA

No. 4 seed Ringgold at No. 1 seed East Hall

No. 3 seed Mary Persons at No. 2 seed North Hall

No. 3 seed Jefferson at No. 2 seed Blessed Trinity

No. 3 seed Lumpkin County at No. 2 seed LFO

No. 4 seed West Hall at No. 1 seed Sonoraville

No. 4 seed Jackson County at No. 1 seed Westminster

Class A

No. 4 seed Lakeview Academy at No. 1 seed Fellowship Christian

Ted Deppe heard the questions surrounding his program.

What was the East Hall volleyball team going to do in 2014 after the graduation of standouts Tarryn Long and Kara Hix?

The eighth-year East Hall coach could smile knowing that, even with the loss of two dominant players, he had a strong group ready to step into the spotlight and make its own mark.

The Lady Vikings rewarded his confidence by compiling a program-best 42-14 record and securing the program’s first area title a week ago with a win against tournament host Fannin County.

East Hall is now set to play its first home playoff match in program history Wednesday when Ringgold comes to Hall County for a first-round matchup.

“They’ve done a good job of coming together,” Deppe said. “No superstars, but they all work well together. They trust one another, and I think that’s contributed to our success.”

It’s fitting that the Vikings’ postseason begins in a gym full of banners marking basketball accomplishments. This team will have its own area champion banner hanging soon.

“That’s so special,” said Savannah Lindsey, a senior libero and one of two captains. “It makes me feel so proud of myself and my team just because that’s never been accomplished here and I was a part of that team.”

Deppe’s players were aiming for that championship all season long, as they won a pair of regular-season tournaments before also bringing home the Area 7-AAA tournament title.

Even when things didn’t go well, senior middle hitter Emily Roberts was impressed with the way she and her teammates bounced back.

“I knew we could power through a loss no matter how hard it was,” Roberts said.

Senior opposite Ashleigh Burnett said there’s a trust and bond on the team, built in part by some of the girls playing club volleyball together.

“We’re all family here,” Burnett said. “We’re a great group of sisters.”

It’s a group that knows how to win in bunches. East Hall has run off winning streaks of 10, eight, seven and five matches this season.

Burnett said encouraging words are a key component for the Vikings. Senior outside hitter Allyson Segars, also a captain, said the team’s unselfishness is one of its greatest assets.

“We want each other to be successful,” Segars said. “Really, on this team, there’s no ‘I’ in team. We rely on each other.”

Deppe said Segars, the Area 7-AAA Player of the Year, has played a central role in East Hall finding its niche this season. He calls his decision to move her from middle hitter to outside hitter this year one of the best decisions in 12 years of coaching volleyball.

Segars has scored 300-plus points on serve for the Vikings in 2014 after never having served before this season.

Deppe recalls telling her after last season that this was going to be her year to be a leader, and she was open to him putting her in a new spot on the court.

“She’s absolutely embraced what she needed to do,” Deppe said.

But Deppe said it’s been the contribution of every player, from those who regularly see match action to those who push their teammates at practice, that have made for such a special year.

Deppe has provided encouragement, teaching and tough words when needed. Burnett said he’s there for the players “like another dad.” Lindsey said Deppe makes sure his players shake off mistakes rather than dwell on them.

“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had,” Lindsey said. “He really cares about us, and he’s always pushing us to do better.”

The coach is grateful for a team that was undeterred in chasing an ambitious goal — the Area 7-AAA title it clinched a week ago.

“That was our No. 1 goal going through the season,” Deppe said. “These girls have believed it all year, and they’ve trusted in one another. They’ve bought into the system that the coaches have put into place.”

It was an emotional triumph, for sure.

“After we won the region, I was so excited,” Segars said. “I was about to just fall on the ground.”

Everything that’s happened so far has been memorable, but East Hall’s volleyball players and coach know it doesn’t have to end now. Deppe expects his girls to play in front of their biggest crowd yet in today’s playoff match.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Deppe said. “I told them, ‘You’ve just got to play within yourself and play our game.’ And if we do those things, then we hope to be successful. It’s a long road, and you’ve got to go one game at a time.”

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