On Thursday night, South Forsyth’s volleyball team looked like it had the Area 5-7A championship all but secured after one set.
But as the War Eagles’ match against Milton pressed on, jubilation turned to frustration. While South was able to give itself a chance late by forcing a decisive fifth set, Milton ultimately turned itself around from its early struggles to hand South a 3-2 loss, 25-13, 25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 12-15.
South will go into the state playoffs as a No. 2 seed, and will face the No. 3 seed from Area 8.
“We got outplayed,” South volleyball coach Kelly Wren said. “That’s kind of the bottom line. They came ready to play, and we made too many errors at the wrong times. We just didn’t match that level of scrap.”
After dropping the second and third sets, South almost recaptured its early momentum in the fourth, squeaking out a two-point win after being stuck on 24 for three points. Despite the War Eagles briefly taking a slim lead in the fifth set, Milton quickly retook it and never gave it up.
“We came out thinking that was going to be a gimme to us,” South senior Molly Bergin said. “It wasn’t. They played a really hard game and they deserve to win. We just stopped fighting and kind of fell apart.”
The War Eagles began their night as well as anyone would have wanted, starting the first set with a 7-0 run. While Bergin, Sydney Forrest and Avery Svehla racked up the kills, Milton was struggling to keep up with its unforced errors. The visiting Eagles showed signs of things to come later in the set with a 4-0 run, but South cruised to the early 12-point victory.
The second set was perhaps the most intense of the match, in stark contrast to South’s easy win in the first. The War Eagles held a slim lead midway through, but Milton took its first lead at 10-9 in the middle of a 6-0 run. South tied the set up at 21-21 with the help of a Svehla ace, but despite the War Eagles winning a long, contested rally to cut the lead to 24-23, Milton secured the last point to tie the match at 1-1.
Milton carried over the momentum into the third set, and the Eagles never gave up the lead in that period, taking advantage of South’s mistakes to go up 2-1.
“That’s volleyball,” Wren said. “That’s momentum. You’ll have it one set, they’ll have it the next set – it happens so fast. Whoever’s being consistent at that moment will have the momentum.”
Bergin and Svela finished with 25 and 16 kills, respectively. Wren is not disappointed in how her team did in the loss, but nonetheless saw room for improvement heading into next week.
“I think our outlook is good,” Wren said. “We have a solid team. Our girls played great tonight: They just got outplayed. We need to have more ability to stop big hitters on the outside. We struggled to defend with our block or with our backcourt. Those are things we need to continue to work on, because we’re going to face more big hitters like that.”