It took just over an hour Thursday night for Gainesville’s volleyball team to dismantle the Alexander Cougars in the first round of the state playoffs.
Just five days after recording the first region championship in program history, the Lady Red Elephants swept Alexander 25-16, 25-22, 25-14.
“First region championship, so we’re excited about that. We’re soaking it all in,” said coach Randi Moore. “This is huge. It’s huge for them. It’s really going to be exciting when we get a banner to hang — the first volleyball banner ever in this gym.”
The Lady Red Elephants will host Ola High (40-7) at 6 p.m. Tuesday, after the Mustangs swept Southwest DeKalb Thursday.
Up 2-0 heading into the third set of Gainesville’s match, the Lady Red Elephants came out with a vengeance.
The home team opened the set with an 11-1 run.
Gainesville would lead by 10 two other times in the set as Tanai Watson notched three kills, including the penultimate point.
As the final point was scored, the crowd of students, parents and school staff erupted into cheers and a standing ovation.
“I think it’s going to be really good for the girls to see exactly who came out,” Moore said. “Them cheering for (the girls) and giving them a standing ovation shows them, ‘Hey, we’re here to support you. Your program is by far doing amazing and you guys really have the talent to go far.’ I think it gives (the team) the confidence they need.”
Gainesville’s largest lead of the night came in the first set as Cori Griffith spiked a ball to give her team a 16-8 lead, forcing Alexander to call a time out.
Watson (nine kills, two aces, five digs) followed up with four straight service points, pushing the lead to 20-8. The Lady Red Elephants never trailed in the first set, including when Watson delivered the final shot to wrap up the set.
The biggest deficit Gainesville faced came in the second set when, twice in the set, Alexander took three-point leads against the home team.
The Lady Red Elephants never panicked and led the Cougars by four later in the set before freshman Anna Wylie (two kills, two blocks) delivered a ferocious, cross-court winner to take a two-set lead.
In front of the biggest crowd the team has had, according to Moore, the Lady Red Elephants seemed to be in control at all points of the match.
Watson said the team uses the energy from the crowd to play harder.
“We feed off of it a lot,” she said. “It gives us a lot of energy to go out there and play faster and harder just for them.”
Junior libero Sydney King (17 digs, three aces) knows just how important sweeping Alexander was.
“That’s a big deal,” King said. “I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but that was a big deal.”
Savannah Roys totalled 23 assists, 14 digs and three kills.