Jubilee Christian Academy’s volleyball team came up short in its bid for a fourth-straight Georgia Athletic Christian Association state championship, but was able to accomplish an even greater feat.
For the first time in program history, the small school in Gainesville are national champions, winning the National Association of Christian Athlete’s Division IV national tournament earlier this month in Dayton, Tenn.
The Lady Stallions charged through the nine-team, double elimination tournament, beating teams from as far out as Wisconsin before topping Convenent Christian Academy (Huntsville, Ala.) 25-22, 25-22 in the final.
The Lady Stallions finished the season with an overall record 37-8 and captured their eighth Northeast region title in 10 years.
“We had a lot of ups and downs through the season,” fourth-year coach Nicole Scarberry said. “We had a lot of games we either lost and shouldn’t have or cut it way too close, but in the end we really learned how to stay focused and that attributed to winning the national championship.
“We finally accomplished something we spent the last three or four years working so hard toward.”
The Lady Stallions were led by their lone senior, outside hitter Olivia Szatkowski, the team captain and kills leader with 267. She also added a team-high 99 aces.
Szatkowski said the team came together to rally for the national title after losing state to Peoples Baptist Academy in McDonough.
“Losing state was a wake up call because we pretty much went undefeated the entire season,” she said. “It let us know we’re not invincible and that we had to get back to playing the basics. Volleyball is a mental sport and if you can’t keep your focus, you’re in trouble.”
Being the team’s only senior, Szatkowski — who spent her entire school career at Jubilee beginning in pre-Kindergarten — said she couldn’t help but to shoulder the blame after losing to Peoples. But the team was so tight-knit — Jubilee’s student population is only roughly 80 students — they were able to successfully chase down school history as a unit.
“It was definitely a rewarding feeling,” she said. “We played in nationals four years in a row and we finally broke the curse. Not only was it the fact we won, but to do it my senior year was amazing.”
While Szatkowski will take her game to the college level — she said she has offers from Brenau, Clearwater Christian College (Fla.) and Bryan (Dayton, Tenn.) — the Lady Stallions return everyone else, including setter and middle hitter Kaylin Walden, second on the team with 127 kills to go with 52 aces as a sophomore.
“We have a lot of talented players,” Szatkowski said. “Overall, the team has a great chance of going back and winning (nationals) again. I’ll be cheering them on 100 percent. The school we’re in is so small, so being on our team is like having another family.”