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Volleyball: Lambert ends four years of frustration against South Forsyth

The opening beats of DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s song, “Turn Down For What,” came over the speakers inside Lambert High School’s gymnasium, and every Longhorns volleyball player on the court – the varsity ones circling up after their 25-20, 25-21, 25-14 win against rival South Forsyth, and the junior varsity ones taking down and putting away equipment – froze.

They remained motionless as the song’s drum beat got faster and faster building to a crescendo of silence just for a second. Then, in unison, the players and the beat dropped.

“They’re goofy,” Lambert head coach Missey Hall said after watching the spectacle.

The team insisted the post-match revelry was not related to ending a winless streak against South (10-20, 2-3 in Area 5-7A) that dated back to Sept. 11, 2012, a span of 10 matches. Hall’s own reaction to the streak’s end was a diplomatic shrug and a thoughtful response on the fragility of high school athletic programs.

“Programs have their ups and downs,” Hall said.

Hall wondered if her own program was in for a dip this season. Before it began, she called it a “rebuilding year” for the Longhorns after losing seven seniors and promising freshman Kailin Taggart, who transferred to Marist, off the best team in the program’s history.

But she was wrong. A more accurate description would have been to use another of sport’s clichés, the more desirable one for programs that face the specter of mass roster turnover from one year to the next: “retooling.” On the surface, not much has changed for Lambert. The Longhorns again have an impressive record (25-10, 4-1), are ranked in the top 10 in Class 7A (No. 8) and appear likely to contend for an area championship.

When that happened last season, among the key reasons was a team chemistry built on familiarity. This team has that chemistry, too; it just developed more organically.

“We all click really well,” freshman Bella Tolone said.

Tolone and a host of new contributors have found their roles over the course of the season. Tolone’s pinpoint serving skills were on display during runs to start the second and third sets. She finished with eight aces. New setter Lael White, a junior, had a team-high 21 assists, distributing the ball often to senior Madeleine Bertz and sophomore Ally Hall, who each had 12 kills. New libero Annie Jones led a balanced defensive effort with eight digs. Together they gutted out a tense first two sets before overwhelming South in the third.

And then, they danced. Not because they ended years of futility against their biggest rival, but because they heard DJ Snake and Lil Jon.

“Every single time,” Tolone said, “whether we lost or won or are just in school, like when we’re about to come in (for a match). When they play the song, we just (drop.)”