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Volleyball: South's Svehla looking to lead her team through Area 5-7A tournament despite injury
Avery Svehla
South Forsyth junior Avery Svehla, center, celebrates with her teammates Sept. 12 during a 3-2 win against Forsyth Central. - photo by David Almeda

Avery Svehla didn’t want to just watch.

It certainly isn’t what she’s done all year for South Forsyth’s volleyball team: She’s not only led the War Eagles as their go-to hitter, but with 246 digs this season, she’s also been a defensive force in the middle.

But as much as the War Eagles have relied on her this season, Svehla was only an observer at practice Monday afternoon, sidelined by a knee injury that will keep her out for at least two weeks.

The timing couldn’t have been worse, with the Region 5-7A tournament set to begin Wednesday. It’s an adjustment that Svehla is still trying to make — as her teammates worked on Monday, she picked up a ball and began to set it to herself, keeping it in the air for as long as she could.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit difficult for me because I don’t like to be on the bench, but I think that my team has really talked about having to come together and work together,” Svehla said. “I really felt the need to be a leader and a role model for everybody. I really tried my best to just be dominant on the court and fulfill that role as a leader as best as I can and be an encourager on the court. I’m going to try to do the same thing that I’ve done on the court on the bench.”

But as much of an impact that Svehla can still have from the sidelines, the fact remains: South will be without its leader and its most dangerous offensive threat this week. But even so, head coach Steffi Legall-Riddle believes in her group, and is working to prepare her team to make the necessary adjustments to come out on top.

Avery Svehla
South Forsyth junior Avery Svehla, left, spikes a ball Sept. 12 during a 3-2 win against Forsyth Central. - photo by David Almeda
“We certainly don’t approach it any different,” she said. “We’ve said all along that we have a good balance on the team. We will miss (her), but at the same time I also feel confident that other girls will step it up. We’ve had to battle a couple of injuries here and there.”

Indeed, Svehla’s knee was not the only issue South was dealing with.

Brinley Bramwell was cleared to play on Monday after suffering a strained calf. For Svehla, though, her injury, feared to be a partially torn meniscus, induced a little bit of nervousness. She tore her ACL in that same knee during her freshman year.

“There wasn’t a specific incident,” Svehla said. “It just stayed swollen and didn’t want to go down, even with ice. I played on it during the Milton game and it just didn’t feel right. I knew my ACL wasn’t torn because I could feel it, but I thought there might be a possibility that it was. I just didn’t want to be out for another year.”

Thankfully for her, it wasn’t, and South is hopeful Svehla will be back for the state playoffs. In the meantime, the War Eagles are trying to find ways to make up for her lost production, leaning on a collection of players to help fill that void. Bramwell and Ava McGlockton will man the outside, while Katie Jacobson and Olivia Grady will try to find success in the middle. Getting the ball to unpredictable places to ultimately result in kills will be paramount.

“There’s a lot that we can control on our side like our passing and our serving,” Legall-Riddle said. “As much as we’re going to miss Avery’s leadership, she’s still only a part of the puzzle. The other girls will have to step up a little bit more and we have to create more kills through our middle attack and not rely so much on just the outside.”

The War Eagles finished their regular season slate of region games having defeated every opponent in the region, with Lambert being the only exception. They’ve seen improvement against them, though, and South hopes that even without its best hitter, they can finally get past the Longhorns.

“I feel pretty positive,” Svehla said. “The first time we played them it wasn’t very good, and the second time we got much, much better. We played like we know how to play as a team. I think the third time’s a charm.”