JOHNS CREEK----The No. 5 seeded South Forsyth Lady War Eagles travelled to Johns Creek on Saturday hoping to knock off the No. 4 seeded Lady Gladiators in the Elite Eight of the Class AAAAAA volleyball tournament.
But like their three previous matchups during the season, South was unable to overcome a cohesive Johns Creek squad and suffered elimination in four sets, 12-25, 12-25, 25-21, 20-25.
South dropped the two opening sets of the contest and was plagued by questionable officiating and a number of unforced errors. The Lady War Eagles bounced back by winning the third set, showing a renewed sense of energy and focus. But the comeback bid fell short as Johns Creek recovered to win a competitive fourth set and advance to the Final Four.
"We came in to this season as a bunch of individuals that hadn't played together," South coach Kelly Wren said. "But this team has grown so much over the course of the season and it has been an absolute joy to coach them. I really didn't want to see our season end because of the improvements we've been making, but we just came up a little short today."
South fell behind early in the first set, coming up on the wrong end of several close line calls. In front of a raucous home crowd, Johns Creek strung together consecutive point streaks of six and five to help secure a quick 1-0 (12-25) lead.
Johns Creek carried its momentum in to the second set (12-25), buoyed by the stand-out performances of the junior tandem of Mikaela Gauthreaux and Madeline Savage. Both, who benefited from some precise sets by their teammates, attacked the ball aggressively and made it difficult for South to prolong points.
"I think our kids were super nervous at the start of the game," Wren said. "You could even see nerves affecting players who had been really successful all year long. But with such a young core, I think this was a great experience to play in this intense atmosphere."
South showed signs of life in the third set by streaking out to a 6-1 lead behind the service game of sophomore Savian Jordan. Senior captain Taylor Svehla (16 kills), who notched her 1,500th career kill during the match, enforced the net with authority and propelled her team to their lone winning set (25-21) of the afternoon.
"We started slow in the first two sets with our enthusiasm and execution, but we pushed really hard in the third and fourth to get back in the game," Svehla said.
Johns Creek edged out South in a tightly contested fourth set (20-25) and ended the War Eagles 2014 campaign. South will have to say goodbye to talented seniors like Svehla and Kailey Carr (committed to Troy) whose high school careers have come to an end.
"I've had such a great time at South," Svehla said. "My teammates and coaches have been irreplaceable and I've learned so much from them. I'm so grateful for the time I got to spend here."