WOODSTOCK – The season ended for the Forsyth County Lady Bulldogs four and a half hours later, just after 9:30 p.m., in the Area 7-AAAAA volleyball tournament at River Ridge High School on Thursday. By then, the second court was gone, disassembled by student volunteers while Central made a last-ditch effort to prolong its season. Five teams and their fans had left. It was just the Lady Bulldogs, Creekview and fate.
Central’s fate was sealed by its most glaring deficiency all season, a blast at the middle of the net that the Lady Bulldogs could not block to finish off a 25-22, 25-22 loss to Creekview and a season that came achingly close to the program’s first state playoff appearance since 2008.
“I think we played together as a unit, but I think we just struggled individually,” Central senior setter Liepa Vaicekaviciute said. “If we had just taken care of some of the errors on our side it would’ve been better.”
Indeed, the Lady Bulldogs entered the season aware of their shortcomings at the net. They lacked height on the block, so Central focused on mastering other areas, particularly serving.
But the Lady Bulldogs’ service let it down when they needed it most Thursday. Central committed just six service errors in a 25-18, 25-17 victory over North Atlanta. Julia Jasion had 10 kills, Emma Gore had five kills and Sarah Whittington finished off the Lady Warriors with Central’s signature skill, an ace, her fourth of the match.
Then the service errors started to pile up – 11 in a 25-22, 25-21 loss to Riverwood, 11 more against Creekview. Against Riverwood, Central led 17-16 and 10-9 in the first and second sets, respectively. Against Creekview, the Lady Bulldogs led 19-18 and 22-21 in the first and second sets, respectively.
Without a consistent serve, the leads evaporated.
“That became our Achilles’ heel at the end of the season,” Central head coach Katie Vazquez said.
“We’re a really good serving team,” Vaicekaviciute said. “[Service errors] definitely had a negative impact on us.”
It brought the end of a remarkable turnaround for the Central program. A year ago, the Lady Bulldogs won just two matches. Vaicekaviciute missed the season with a torn ACL. A year later and Central was buoyed Thursday by the realistic prospect of earning a state playoff berth.
“They’re the best that I’ve ever coached,” Vazquez said, “and they made my job fun.”
Afterward, with the blast of Creekview’s final hit still echoing in the near-empty gym, the Lady Bulldogs had only seconds to process the loss. Vaicekaviciute slumped in a chair. Setter Amber Waddell, the Lady Bulldogs’ other senior, collapsed to the court, unable to limp any longer on her left knee.
But soon they were up, backpack in hand, on their way with the rest of the team to the only bus left in the River Ridge parking lot.
“I’m very proud of every girl that played on this team,” Vaicekaviciute said. “I’ve never had a better season. I definitely appreciated everybody, all the coaches and everyone. I’m happy to be a part of this team.”