The Gainesville volleyball team faced No. 1 seeded Apalachee twice in the Region 8-6A tournament Saturday, winning one of those matches to earn a No. 2 seed in the Class 6A state tournament. The Lady Red Elephants will go on the road to take on Harrison in the first round next Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my girls,” Gainesville coach Randy Roys said. “I just asked them, when you go out there today, go out there and play your best, your hardest. And then no matter what the result is, you can walk out of here with your head held high. And they did that.”
Isabella Appling had 10 kills, 21 digs and four aces on the day for the Lady Red Elephants, while Karlea Grace Langford had 22 digs and a pair of aces. Ansley Turner contributed 18 kills, seven digs and two blocks, and Isabella Garrish delivered 28 assists, 14 digs and three aces.
Gainesville started things off on Saturday with a semifinal match against Apalachee. After dropping the first set 25-16, Roys pulled his team to the side for a quick pep talk.
“There really wasn’t a whole lot to say except ‘Look, that’s not your best. You know you’re better than that. Just relax, calm down, and play,’” Roys said.
Gainesville took the advice to heart, bouncing back in a big way to win 25-15 in the second set and 15-11 in the third.
Apalachee then took on Habersham Central, with the winner slated to play Gainesville for the championship. The Lady Wildcats won to set up a rematch with the Lady Red Elephants — a best-of-five contest to decide the top team coming out of Region 8-6A.
Gainesville won the first set in comeback fashion, rallying from a 23-19 deficit to win 25-23. But the second set was a 33-31 marathon that eventually went in favor of Apalachee when Gainesville was called for a lift on set point.
“The second set was just back and forth, back and forth,” Roys said. “It seemed like it took forever. But that was probably one of the most fun sets we’ve been in all year. It was just great play after great play.”
The Lady Red Elephants dropped the final two sets 25-18, 25-23, settling for a No. 2 seed in the state tournament.
With the loss, Gainesville will face a Harrison team that is only one year removed from winning back-to-back state titles. Roys said Saturday’s games against Apalachee gave his team valuable experience that could serve the Lady Red Elephants well should they find themselves in any close matches in state playoffs.
“That experience you can definitely go back to,” Roys said. “I’m not going to say we’re happy that we lost, but I’m happy the way we played. That experience will definitely help us going forward to be battle tested and ready for the playoffs.”