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Volleyball: East Forsyth splits area matches against Hall County foes
Kimmi VanNorman 09-20-22
East Forsyth's Kimmi VanNorman spikes the ball during an Area 8-4A matchup against Johnson (Hall) Tuesday at home. (Photo by Nicholas Sullivan)

East Forsyth hosted a pair of Area 8-4A rivals from neighboring Hall County, splitting the Tuesday tri-match.

The Broncos came up short in two hard-fought sets against Cherokee Bluff (25-19, 25-23) before sweeping past Johnson by scores of 25-9 and 25-13.

“After the loss in the first one, where we felt like we played tough and felt like we had an opportunity to at least take it to three [sets], it’s great for them to come out in the second and get after it,” East Forsyth head coach Chris James said. “That was really good to see. In the past, we’ve struggled with that a little bit.”

This time around, the Broncos (15-19, 3-3) showed some killer instinct.

In the opening set against Johnson, East Forsyth scored 15 of the first 16 points and held a 19-2 lead before the visitors made the final score more respectable.

The second set saw James run a mostly second-string group that included several freshmen, including promising outside hitters Kimmi VanNorman (5 kills) and Mandy Karavite (2).

“We have a really nice group of freshmen,” James said. “Our two outside hitters were freshmen, and they have a lot of potential.

“That’s really good, because that’s going to increase the competition in our gym. They’re going to battle for starting jobs.”

Another freshman that saw extensive time in the final set proved to be the difference down the stretch.

Libero Mataya Orth starts and plays extensively for the Broncos, and she showcased her stellar serving ability to great effect.

With the second set even at 13-apiece after an East Forsyth side out, Orth took over at the line and served out the match. Orth recorded aces on half of her 22 serves in the match and posted seven during the final stretch, including one to close out the victory.

Orth added a team-high five digs in the win and even chipped in with two assists.

“As freshmen coming into that role, some kids struggle. I haven’t really seen her struggle,” James said in discussing the impact of Orth, who added nine digs versus Cherokee Bluff. “The moment isn’t too big for her. She goes out there and is probably one of the hardest-working kids on this team. You see her running around out there, and she’s always on the ground.

“It shows that you don’t have to be an upperclassman or have all of that experience at the high school level to be a leader. She just goes out there and leads by example.”

While the Bears entered the night among the top teams in the area standings, they needed to stave off a strong challenge from the Broncos to avoid falling off the pace in the race for the No. 1 seed.

East Forsyth had legitimate chances to win both sets.

In the first, the Broncos trailed 19-17 before fading late. East Forsyth overcome a seven-point deficit in the second to grab a 23-20 lead only to see Cherokee Bluff reel off five straight points to claim the win.

“They’ve got some really big hitters, and they’ve got some kids who can put the ball away in the crunch moment and last couple points,” James said of the Bears. “We had them 23-20. They just went to their big guns, and we couldn’t stop them.

“They’re a really good team. We’re not happy that we lost, but we’re happy that we competed a little bit more than we have with some other teams. That’s a really good step in the right direction for us moving into the region tournament.”

Despite having put together a much more successful second season for the fledgling program, East Forsyth is still seeking a signature win that would signal it is ready to compete for a postseason berth.

The Broncos have been close, dropping three-set matches to local Class 7A rivals Denmark, Forsyth Central and South Forsyth. Thursday's tri-match with North Hall and host North Oconee offers another chance to boost their playoff hopes.

“We want to take our program to the next stage,” James said. “I think we’re right on the cusp. We just have to have that moment.”