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Volleyball: South seizes momentum late to thwart Central comeback bid
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South Forsyth's volleyball team celebrates after getting a point against Forsyth Central on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. - photo by David Almeda

Two sets into Thursday’s Area 5-7A volleyball match between Forsyth Central and South Forsyth, an impending and predictable end seemed all but inevitable.

Central, still looking for its first area win in four years, had made plenty of mistakes to set itself back in the first two sets, and with a two-set lead, South looked primed to come away with the easy sweep. Central head coach Brian Welsch knew his team was capable of so much more than they’d showed, though, and during the break, he called his team together.

“I challenged them,” Welsch said. “I said, ‘I need somebody to step up. I need somebody to want the ball. I need somebody to want to put the team on their back and run with it.’”

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Forsyth Central's Malone Davis attempts to hit the ball past South Forsyth's Avery Svehla on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. - photo by David Almeda

And his Bulldogs more than answered that call to action. Central played inspired volleyball in the third and fourth sets, winning rallies and making key defensive plays to ultimately tie the match at 2-2. In the fifth and final set, however, the War Eagles took the momentum back, coming away with a thrilling 3-2 victory. South improved to 8-9 overall and 1-1 in Area 5-7A, while Central dropped to 15-13, 0-2.

“I couldn't be more proud about how my girls fought,” Welsch said. “The way that we've turned the corner and the culture of this program to believing that we deserve to be on the court with anybody in this region, I think shined through.

“It absolutely sucks to lose. The only thing I would change about tonight is the score in that fifth set.”

For South, it was another challenging matchup after falling short against Lambert on Tuesday. Like the Bulldogs, the War Eagles faced a point where they needed to rally together, which came late in the fourth set. Their change in mentality ultimately helped them remedy their mistakes and earn the win.

“Our players just started to dial in and not think about what they did, but what they had to do next,” South head coach Steffi Legall-Riddle said. “That's kind of a mental shift and maturing process of a team that eventually just started to talk about fighting ... In the fourth set, it was like, ‘OK, this is our gym, we've got to own this place. We've got to keep fighting (and) we've got to start playing together.’ All of a sudden, the energy shifted and the communication increased tremendously. That's what helped us tonight.”

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South Forsyth's Brinley Bramwell goes for a kill against Forsyth Central on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. - photo by David Almeda
Early on, though, it didn’t look like South needed any of that mental fortitude. The War Eagles looked like the more solid team in the first two sets, taking advantage Central’s unforced errors for relatively easy 25-17 and 25-19 wins.

But in the third set, the War Eagles’ previously sound play started to waver. Central utilized those mistakes and a new lineup to take its largest lead of the game to that point at 13-6, and with excellent blocking up front from Natalie Roberts and Emma Kiser, the Bulldogs extended the match with a 25-16 set win.

And the Bulldogs just got better from there, starting the fourth set with an 8-1 run on the way to another 25-16 victory to tie the match up. Central was laying out to keep rallies going, with Kiser coming up with some nice saves. South showed some promise towards the end of that set, though, which carried to the fifth. The War Eagles led for most of it, and earned a 15-10 win to finally seal the game.

“We knew we were a team with good ball control,” South’s Avery Svehla said. “At a lot of times, we got pretty riled up, so we knew that we just had to settle back down. We had so much hope and so much heart in that last game and we wanted to fight for this win.”

Svehla and Aliyah Thompson finished with 13 kills for South. Gabi Conde-Borres ended her night with 16 digs.