OAKWOOD — From the looks of things, Oconee County’s volleyball program doesn’t have any plans of breaking in the new teams to Area 8-AAA by taking it easy with any sort of grace period. A state semifinalist in 2009, the Lady Warriors (8-4, 2-0 Area 8-AAA) dominated West Hall (25-10, 25-8) and Johnson (25-12, 25-16) in the first area matches of the season on Tuesday in Oakwood.
Oconee County only trailed once the entire tri-match, 4-3 against Johnson in Game 2, but rattled off the next five points en route to a 25-16 victory.
With the addition of most of Hall County’s volleyball programs, this may be one of the toughest Class AAA area’s in the state with North Hall and West Hall also ranked in the coaches poll.
“We’ve never seen some of these teams before and with three in the Top 10, it should be very competitive,” said Oconee County coach Steffi Legall.
However at this early stage of the season, Oconee County showed they are the team to beat.
The No-6 ranked Lady Warriors swept the first day in Area 8-AAA play this season with strong serves, great passing and hard hitting at the net. Oconee County’s height advantage and four players 5-foot-11 or taller doesn’t hurt either.
Despite having such a strong program at Oconee County, the Lady Warriors also got the backing of some shots that just went their way.
In one instance during Game 2 of the Lady Warriors’ match against West Hall, middle hitter Amanda Guest managed to get to the ball for Oconee County and connected with a sideways swiping motion with her fist, and the ball landed perfectly between two Lady Spartans defenders on the other end for the point.
Kelsey Sailors (28 digs), Mallory Moore (13 kills) and Mary Kate White (seven kills) led the way for the Lady Warriors.
“They (Oconee County) are definitely the team to beat in our area,” West Hall coach Joe Nelson said. “They could beat some lower level college programs.”
Meanwhile, Johnson (5-10, 1-1) earned a split thanks to a hard-fought win against West Hall (21-25, 25-15, 25-23). After tough losses recently against North Gwinnett and Chamblee, Lady Knights coach Deb Eidson says her program was fired up to open area play.
The key moment in Game 3 for Johnson against the Lady Spartans, Eidson says, was with a kill from middle hitter Caitlin Sloan.
Despite dropping the first game of the day, Johnson battled back with a solid blocking effort and more aggressive digging. Eidson added that going to three games against Chamblee, even though they lost the match, gave the program some confidence they can mount a comeback.
Against West Hall, Brittany Panter had three aces, Savannah Turk had three kills, and Karis Sloan had three kills and three blocked shots. The Lady Knights face West Forsyth in a tri-match at North Hall beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday.
West Hall (11-7, 0-2) was led by Laykin Herford (11 assists, ace), Stephanie Rowland (four kills, two blocks), Nicolette Ashley (18 digs) and Gracie Allison (four kills). The Lady Spartans play host to Jefferson and Buford in a tri-match beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday in Oakwood.