On Thursday night, North Forsyth volleyball coach Kelly Cecil watched the Raiders breeze past Forsyth Central in their Area 5-7A opener, sweeping the Bulldogs 25-8, 25-12, 25-11. Cecil wasn't blown away.
"Not bad," she said of her team's play. "Overall, not bad."
The Raiders (19-2, 1-0 Area 5-7A) have the best overall record in Forsyth County and have the length and experience to record romps like the one on Thursday. However, their head coaching duo of Kelly Cecil and her husband, Drew, are keeping their sights towards later this month and the playoffs in October.
North's current record is the best among county teams, a promising sign for the team's chances of topping South Forsyth and Lambert, two of the state's stronger programs in recent years and ones that the Raiders have lagged slightly behind.
While gauging strength of schedule is an imprecise task, North looks to a few particular results as signs that they're legit. They beat a 22-1 Mill Creek squad in a preseason scrimmage, topped North Oconee (23-6) 2-1 and stuck tight with an Etowah squad ranked among the best in Class 7A, splitting the first two sets before falling in the third.
"They've been challenged," Kelly Cecil said. "(There) haven't been times when we've played bad and we've lost. When we've lost, we've played well and we've been challenged and we take a lot from that, more so than coming in and beating someone badly."
With the Raiders' experience and talent, much of their coaches' work has been devoted to keeping them focused and sharp, looking at how they executed in specific areas, rather than just glancing at the final score and basking in the glow of their record. Neither Kelly nor Drew Cecil has seen signs of complacency on the team.
"I think our players have the same sort of mindset as we do," Drew Cecil said. "We're doing well right now, but our focus is more on what we do in region play and the postseason."
The win over Central (2-21, 0-1) did have special significance for Raiders senior Maddie Bryant. The Georgia Southern commit had the milestone of 1,000 career kills on her mind heading into this season, but she had doubts about her chances, given that many players hit the mark as juniors. Drew Cecil told Bryant early in the season that the mark was within reach, though, and she had a feeling that she could hit it on Thursday.
Bryant's chances looked bleak late in the match, though, and it was clear it wouldn't go past three sets. The Raiders had 19 points in the third set, six away from sealing the win, and Bryant sat at 995 career kills.
"We went ahead and told her, 'It's probably not going to happen,'" Kelly Cecil said.
But the team rallied around Bryant and setter Logan Taft kept sending it her way. The Raiders' 24th point of the third set was her 1,000th kill, producing a loud cheer from North's contingent. The timing was also ideal for Bryant's late-arriving father, who got to the gym in time to see the milestone.
"I just kept swinging," Bryant said.