South Forsyth swept its way through the first round of the GHSA state playoffs Thursday evening, winning 25-15, 25-14 and 25-8 against Kennesaw Mountain despite a slow start in the opening set.
Five consecutive errors from South kept the Lady Mustangs, who entered the match a modest 24-21, within two points at 10-8. South's players were visibly frustrated, chasing down a number of balls that just didn't bounce their way, while Kennesaw Mountain was gaining confidence.
That trend didn't last long, as Shealyn McNamara led the charge from the middle hitter position with six kills and a block point to set the tone as her teammates regained their composure behind her. South led 20-13 at the first timeout and closed the set at 25-15—from there, the match was smooth sailing.
“We started out of rhythm. I'm not sure why, but they were able to get back into it and finish anyways, and that's a good sign,” South head coach Kelly Wren said. “I had been saying the entire week that we needed to just focus on our side and our game. In the beginning we didn't do that, but we were able to be successful anyways. We controlled the ball enough.”
The second set was much of the opposite. South had just seven team kills, and rather used 13 errors from the Lady Mustangs to pull away. Courtney Darling and McNamara made the biggest plays of the second set by denying three consecutive kill attempts at the net.
Amanda Nugent dominated the third set, mainly with a run where she had six consecutive aces—turning in shock to her teammates for most of them—to help South pull away to a 17-4 lead.
“I have seen something similar before,” Wren said of Nugent's streak. “But, the impressive part was that she was serving short balls, long balls. Everything was actually very diverse, and to stay in control and have variety in that run was incredibly impressive.”
Nugent finished the set with five kills and seven aces—she had nine kills and eight aces in the match to lead the team.
Avery Kline had the match's final kill, dropping a ball just over the right side. South also got contributions from recent junior varsity player Hannah McGlockton, who notched a kill in the second set, and Giana Frangipane's backup, Sarah Stoneking, who drew the largest roar from the crowd with an emphatic kill late in set three.
McNamara finished with eight kills and two block points, Darling added four kills, and Lily Kincaid had four kills.
Kennesaw Mountain was held to just 13 kills for the entire match, led by Meghan Cobelli (5).
The Lady War Eagles will face off against the winner of Grayson and Pope in the second round.