Close sets had been going against West Forsyth volleyball so often through their first 25 matches leading up to their Area 5-7A opener at South Forsyth last Thursday, the 30-28 and 26-24 and 25-23 sort of losses that were equal parts encouraging and frustrating. Now, they had to face a South team on a remarkable run of dominance against county teams: 28 straight wins dating back to 2012.
Wolverines head coach Jake Dickey told his team before the match to set aside all that, to forget their own 9-16 record, their own previous near-misses, their own eight consecutive losses to the War Eagles over the past five seasons.
“We started 0-0 in (area) is what I told them (before the match),” Dickey said, “and we want to be 1-0.”
Now, they are, after a 25-21, 20-25, 25-22, 19-25, 16-14 victory that snapped South’s in-county winning streak and perhaps signaled a new order of things in Forsyth County volleyball.
The War Eagles have had their way against county rivals Forsyth Central (2-0), Lambert (10-0), North Forsyth (7-0) and West (8-0) since they last lost to a county team on Sept. 11, 2012. The start of that streak coincided with South’s ascension into the upper echelon of programs in the state. They are coming off their second straight area championship. They have regularly been ranked in the top 10 in the highest classification and defeated other powerhouse programs. South also showed a county bereft of postseason history what was possible by reaching at least the semifinals of the state playoffs three of the past four seasons, including the state championship in 2015 when it lost to Walton.
South’s reign atop Area 5-7A is no longer secure. North seems to be ascending now. The Raiders are 26-3 and ranked No. 3 in Class 7A by MaxPreps. And Lambert, coming off its first state semifinal appearance in program history, is 20-8 and ranked No. 9.
The War Eagles, meanwhile, replaced five starters and seven seniors in all from last season’s team that lost to eventual state champion Walton in the state semifinals, and the struggles have been evident: the War Eagles are 7-17 overall, albeit with a brutally competitive schedule.
“We’ve got kids who can put the ball down. We pass pretty well. We have some pretty big kids who can put a block up. We’ve got an attacker from every part of the court,” South head coach Kelly Wren said. “We just need to be more consistent.”
Despite South’s uncharacteristic struggles, West’s win was no less significant for the Wolverines, particularly how they persisted in the fifth and match-clinching set. It see-sawed from West leading 10-7 to South leading 13-12 to West at match-point, 14-13, only for South’s Hannah McGlockton to even things up with a kill off an improvised cross-court set from Molly Bergin.
Here was another close set for West, the kind the Wolverines had struggled to pull out all season.
“We’ve learned that we have the skill,” senior setter Rachel Hart said, “we just have to finish. We’ve had a lot of games we were within two points, and it was all about finally changing it and having us win by the two, not losing 26-24, 25-23.”
This time, Annie Velduis (12 kills) and Olivia Dodd (12 kills, 11 digs) had back-to-back kills, and the Wolverines’ entire group on the court and the bench exploded in celebration.
For a night, there was a little feeling that things might be different for West and the rest of the area this season.
“I think it means a lot to everybody,” Dickey said. “(The players) know South has been king of the block for a while. To get this win at South is a good start. It’s exciting.”