By next morning, South Forsyth volleyball will be in the gym again. They must be. It is the only way, Lady War Eagles senior Kelli McCravy said, they know how to put the heartbreak behind them and see the hope ahead.
It’s back there that the Lady War Eagles will try to process the 25-18, 25-19 loss to second-seeded Johns Creek on Thursday in the Area 5-AAAAA tournament that propelled the Lady Gladiators into the finals against Chattahoochee and left South with a No. 3 seed in the state playoffs.
“I think they out-played us tonight,” McCravy said. “We had a strategy and plan. I just don’t think we executed it like we wanted to.”
The tournament as a whole was a reprisal of last season’s when South (45-12) entered as the prohibitive favorite after an unblemished regular season in the area, most notably defeating Chattahoochee and Johns Creek to earn the top seed, before losing to the Lady Gladiators in the area championship.
Again, the Lady War Eagles dispatched both Johns Creek (25-19, 21-25, 25-21 on Sept. 17) and Chattahoochee (25-22, 20-25, 25-23 on Oct. 1) earlier this season.
Again, South couldn’t defeat them in the area tournament, losing to Chattahoochee in the quarterfinals of the winner’s bracket on Wednesday before falling to Johns Creek on Thursday.
Victory against Johns Creek had come by the slimmest of margins in the regular season. So did defeat in the area tournament.
Facing elimination, South sought early in Game 2 to adjust from its failures of Game 1. There were more deft tips from middle hitter Taylor Svehla, the area’s offensive player of the year, and McCravy mixed in abrupt sets over the net more frequently all in an effort to thwart Johns Creek’s bigs, who combined for six blocks in the Game 1 victory.
When Johns Creek seized some momentum with a 17-14 lead in Game 2, Kalyn Edelman provided the spark South lacked in Game 1. Coming out of a timeout, the junior outside hitter made two straight kills from the left side, then added a third to tie the game at 18-18.
But that’s as close as South got. Johns Creek won six of the next seven points to clinch the match and seal South’s state playoff fate.
“We needed to be more disciplined as a whole,” McCravy said. “It was our mistakes that match. They played a great game, but it was net calls, service outs, things we did not execute, things we need to do to win a volleyball game.”
Things South did at an unprecedented rate during the regular season, winning a program-record 45 matches and ascending to the top of the polls at one point this season.
They are things the Lady War Eagles believe they can do again when the state playoffs begin next Thursday.
“Our season’s not over,” McCravy said. “We’re ready to work. We know exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to go back in the gym and work out butts off just like we have been, because we still have the same goal. We’re going to do exactly what we have to do.”