KINGSLAND — It might have seemed a bit unfair to South Forsyth’s volleyball team.
Ranked No. 6 in Class AAAAAA in the latest GaSports.com coaches poll, the Lady War Eagles had to board a bus for a six hour trip to the Georgia coast for the second round of the state playoffs, where they were slated against a Camden County team with only one other school in its region.
But if South’s girls did feel slighted by the odd bracketing, they didn’t let it get in the way of their postseason hopes. After traveling to within six miles of the Florida state line, the Lady Eagles (34-18) swept their way into the state quarterfinals Tuesday with a 3-0 win over the Lady Wildcats (32-16).
None of the three games looked dominant, with South taking the first two 25-20, 25-21, then putting Game 3 away with a late 5-0 surge to win 25-16. Still, South did enough to maintain control throughout the match and dispatched Camden County in an hour’s work.
South coach Kelly Wren saw a performance that needed improvement, but was happy to get the win on the road.
"It was not our best volleyball. They did what they needed to do to get the job done," Wren said. "When you’re on a bus for six hours, it takes a toll."
Wren noted the juxtaposition with South’s opening round win at home over Habersham Central. Being in a hostile gym far from home, the girls had to draw emotional support from a cheering section of South moms in the middle of the arena instead of a home crowd filled with supporters.
By the metrics of rankings and wins, South was clearly the better team on paper in the matchup. But the quirks of realignment, which placed Camden in Region 1-AAAAAA with only one other team, Brunswick, meant the Lady Wildcats earned the right to play host by finishing atop a two-team region.
South finished second in Area 5-AAAAAA, which saw all four of its playoff teams ranked among the classification’s top 10 entering the posteason.
"Our region is very competitive," Wren said. "Playing against John’s Creek, Lambert, Chattahoochee, I think that definitely prepared us [for this challenge]."
The coach pointed to solid performances by setter Kelli McCravey, who consistently found her hitters during the match, and sophomore Taylor Svehla.
"She basically was uncontested at the net," Wren said of the 6-foot-2 Svehla, who used her reach to deliver numerous big plays on the afternoon.
For Svehla, the chance to help her team into the state’s round of eight was naturally a good experience.
"It feels good. We’re all pretty excited," she said, while noting the challenge is to stay grounded heading into the next round.
While Camden hung around in each game, South never seemed in serious danger of dropping one. The only point where momentum looked ready to shift came late in Game 2. Having been ahead 22-16, South dropped four straight points. With Camden trailing by just two, the home crowd started getting louder in hopes of seeing a comeback.
At that point, Wren called timeout to regroup. The strategy paid off, as South won the next two points to head off the collapse.
"I think we just had to gather our feelings and regain our momentum," Svehla said of the gut check moment.
South now heads into Saturday’s state quarterfinals. The GHSA was set to re-seed the final eight teams in each bracket Wednesday, so it was unclear who or where South would play at press time. If the Lady War Eagles are seeded among the top four remaining teams, they will be at home for the quarterfinals.
The Class AAAAAA semifinals will be staged at Chattahoochee on Halloween. The final is scheduled Nov. 5 at McEachern.