CUMMING — One goal has been met, a larger one is still in play.
With their two wins Tuesday over Pickens and West Forsyth, the Lady Falcons of Flowery Branch have secured a spot in the Class AAA state volleyball tournament for the second consecutive year. But they still have much more to play for.
Specifically the program’s first area title.
“We still want that,” Flowery Branch coach Bryan Mavis said after his team defeated West Forsyth 26-24, 23-25, 25-11. A win that secured a top-four finish and Class AAA state playoff berth. “It’s eluded us twice, and we’d really like to not make it a third time.
“If we’re playing on Saturday (in the area championship), we want to win it.”
That mentality was evident in the Lady Falcons’ (32-9) two matches Tuesday at West Forsyth.
Playing with an apparent desire not to lose, Flowery Branch beat a pesky Pickens team 25-9, 25-23 that set up the meeting with West Forsyth, a team that was not intimidated by the Lady Falcons’ No. 2 seed.
With a guaranteed trip to the state playoffs on the line, the Lady Wolverines (21-18) gave the ninth-ranked Lady Falcons all that they could handle in a three-game match that featured several lead changes and intense volleys.
But in the end it was the experience of Flowery Branch that allowed the team to hold on to a 2-1 win (26-24, 23-25, 25-11).
“We knew West Forsyth, in our opinion, was the best of the scrappy teams we have played this season,” Mavis said. “They have the ability to get to the ball and keep it alive. Against a team like that we knew our outside hitters had to hit targets and we weren’t able to do that a too much (Tuesday).”
Standing in the way of the outside hitters were West Forsyth’s frontline of Jessica Lewis, Jessica Feltracco and Becky Ropp. Led by Lewis’ five blocks, the trio wreaked havoc on the kill attempts by Flowery Branch.
“They played well,” West Forsyth coach Meredith Phillips said of her team. “Everything is positive. Our team is still young, and it’s nice to see how far they have come just since the start of the season. And obviously we still have a ways to go.”
From the start of the match with Flowery Branch it appeared as if the young Lady Wolverines were going to get a first-hand lesson in how volleyball is played in Area 7-AAA.
The senior-laden Lady Falcons jumped out to a 12-4 lead in Game 1 and were clicking in every facet of the game.
Devon Reese was digging out every kill attempt, Jennica Ramey (25 assists) was setting up her teammates perfectly, and Megan Grewett (18 kills) and Meleigha King (five kills) were dominating the net.
But West Forsyth never faltered.
Led by the serving of Daniela Cavallo, the Lady Wolverines reeled off nine consecutive points to take a 13-12 lead, putting Flowery Branch on its’ heels.
Back-and-forth the teams went, trading point for point. When Flowery Branch took the lead, West Forsyth fought back and tied the score. In total, the first game was tied eight times, including at 24-24.
Needing two points to win, the Lady Falcons got one point on an out-of-bounds ball by West Forsyth, and the final one on a kill from Ramey to Samantha Salyers that won the game and set the tone for Game 2.
Like in the first game, Flowery Branch put West Forsyth in a huge hole to start. The Lady Falcons jumped out to a 7-1 lead only to watch their opponents storm back. Only this time Flowery Branch could not hold off the attack of the Lady Wolverines, who won the game 25-23, forcing a pivotal Game 3.
That’s when Flowery Branch showed why it is ranked No. 9 in Class AAA.
First it was the Ramey-to-Grewett tandem that allowed the Lady Falcons to build a 7-5 lead. And although the senior led the team through the first two matches, a junior led them to victory.Clinging to a five-point lead, Danielle Miller aced West Forsyth on 4-of-5 serves to increase the lead to 10.
Flowery Branch went on to win by 14.
“We’re coming along,” Phillips said. “We made some mistakes tonight and Flowery Branch took advantage of those things.”
The Lady Falcons also made mistakes, and according to Mavis, they will have to play nearly flawless volleyball in order to win the region title.
“I told them whatever they ate this morning not to eat it Thursday,” he said. “We can’t play like this again or we won’t accomplish our goal.”
The Lady Falcons play top-seeded Creekview (27-13) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Canton with the winner advancing to the area championship game. The loser of that game will be sent to the loser’s bracket and will play at 1 p.m. Saturday.