The Hall County volleyball championship on Saturday is shaping up to be a survival of the fittest among a deep pool of talent.
Constantly-flowing matches, starting at 8 a.m. among the nine participating programs at different host sites, concluding with the championship at North Hall will make for a lively showcase of the fastest growing high school sport in the county.
And at 10-1 early in the season and ranked No. 7 in Class 4A, Chestatee is certainly one of the team’s with a legitimate chance to win it all.
The tournament has been moved up in the season so as to not interfere with homecoming, SAT schedules and to avoid pressing up against region matches.
Even though some fans will chose not to attend, due to rising coronavirus cases, the hype around volleyball in Hall County this season has been intense with spirited student sections and celebrations on the floor after wins.
So, you can imagine the scene that will ensue for the program that comes out on top in 2021.
“It’s going to be a really big tournament this year,” fifth-year Chestatee coach Kaylee Crumley said. “There’s so much talent here in Hall County and it will be exciting to watch.”
The chatter around the county volleyball championship evokes comparisons to the Lanierland, the county basketball championship.
With ample talent in volleyball and college football yet to kickoff, participating schools expect high turnout among fans who want to watch the action.
“All the teams this year have a great shot to win the Hall County Championship,” Cherokee Bluff coach Laura DeLaPerriere said. “We have some high-level volleyball in our area. This will be a great event for the community to come out to watch with volleyball being one of the fasted growing sports in our area. (We’re) looking forward to a competitive day at North Hall and Chestatee High on Saturday.”
Typically, North Hall and Gainesville have two of the top-quality programs in the county.
And that hasn’t changed.
Fourth-year Cherokee Bluff is also off to a strong start and will certainly be a contender.
However, Chestatee is the program that has burst on the scene and is looking at winning for the first time in the 11 years the county championship has been held.
The Lady War Eagles are anchored on the floor by seniors at libero Arianna Hernandez and middle blocker Anna Grace Edmonds, sophomore setter Abby Allgood and freshman outside hitter Valiree Schmus.
Chestatee also has a coach who has accomplished a lot when she was a player.
Now, she’s instilling those lessons into a group with spread out talent: six seniors, two sophomores, two juniors and five freshmen.
Crumley, who won a state championship playing at Whitewater High in 2010 and was a setter at the University of Georgia from 2011-14, also lauds her junior varsity coach, Julie Daniels, for cultivating the talent while they are still young in the program.
Chestatee’s early-season run, so far, has been pretty impressive.
The Lady War Eagles swept North Hall. Then they beat quality programs from White County and Jackson County.
The first and only hiccup of the season for the Lady War Eagles came Tuesday with a loss against Oconee County, which is No. 10 in Class 3A.
“I think that loss was a good wake-up call,” Crumley said.
Chestatee’s coach says her program didn’t start preparation for the Hall County championship weekend until Wednesday.
Crumley likes to take it one match at a time.
Also, there’s no sense in looking too far down the road, due to complete uncertainly with the conronavirus.
Crumley, who moved to Gainesville in 2017 with her husband Luke, takes a hands-on approach to building her program on the floor and has the business skills to generate revenue from the community for the volleyball squad.
Crumley said her father initiated the program’s first golf tournament to raise proceeds for the program.
Chestatee High is also blessed to have high-definition scoreboards at their fields, which are good to grab eye balls and used to facilitate sponsorships.
When she was 24, Crumley arrived at Chestatee, not even familiar with Hall County.
However, her husband, Luke, who was a standout baseball player at White County High and then the University of Georgia, grew up in Cleveland and knew all the perks of living in Northeast Georgia.
Now, Crumley is in Year 5 with Chestatee’s program.
Even though a trip to the second round of the state tournament in 2020 was fun, Chestatee’s coach has her eyes set on much more ambitious goals with its program.
And she believes the Lady War Eagles have the talent necessary to make it happen.
“Chestatee is such a special place,” Crumley said. “Big things are happening here and I’m so excited to be a part of it.”