The champ is the champ until someone dethrones them. Sonoraville has won five straight area titles coming into this season, and that is the level Calhoun wants to get to in 2017. So they had Thursday’s match on the Lady Phoenix home court circled, and they made a statement with a two-set win over their rivals from up the road.

Calhoun (17-9, 3-1)) got down 10-4 in the first set to the Lady Phoenix, who they squared off with in the final match of the night following both teams easily dispatching of Union County, but Calhoun coach Randy Rice called a timeout, got his team refocused, and the Lady Jackets controlled the match from there to earn the win. They took the first set 25-20, and then followed that up by clinching the match with another 25-20 advantage in the second set.

Sonoraville (7-14, 1-3) could never really gain their footing again following their fast start in the first set as Calhoun kept the pressure on with their strong serving and solid play at the net.

Rice said he was very happy with the way his team responded after the rough start and was even more pleased with how they didn’t let up once they got a lead against Sonoraville.

“We started slow, but I got the girls together and just told them they had to relax,” said Rice. “We came out a little flat after our match with Union County, but once we got going, we played well. I told the girls you have to take it to (Sonoraville) in their gym and not let them get any momentum going again to get them back in the match. I knew we had somewhat of an advantage getting our serves in against Sonoraville. Every one of our girls hit it well.

When you face the defending area champ, there is a little more motivation. Sonoraville has been the best in the area for several years, but these girls know they have the ability to do that too. This was a big win to gain more confidence for us.”

The Lady Jackets opened the night with a two-set win over Union County in dominant fashion. They took the first set 25-11 and finished the match off with a 25-9 demolition in the second set.

In the two wins, several individual players stood out for Calhoun, including nine kills from Sophie Stewart, eight kills from Emma Kate Smith and seven kills from Anna George. Smith added three aces and two digs. Erin Kelly had a stellar night serving with eight aces, Erin Davis added five aces and Callie Ledford had four aces. Ashlyn Brzozoski contributed six digs, three kills and three aces, Railey Greeson had six digs, Anna Hoblitzell added three digs and two kills and Ashton Ensley had three digs.

Sonoraville started the night with a dominant victory over Union County, taking them down 25-9, 25-6 in two sets. But they couldn’t keep the momentum going against Calhoun. Sonoraville coach Trace Vaughn said the loss was more of what he has seen over the last few weeks from his team where a few negative plays tend to snowball into more and more as the match goes on.

“It’s a continuation of the same thing for us,” said Vaughn. “For some reason it has been a habit for us…we lose confidence very easily. We start pressing, and then we start to make more mistakes. There were some nerves for sure tonight, and we tend to do that against teams that have a couple big girls at the net. And I’m sure playing Calhoun has a little to do with it to do with it. We’ve got to figure out how to settle down, have fun and just play volleyball.

“We believe in each other, but sometimes we have a hard time believing in ourselves. We’ll keep working and hopefully get there. Hopefully we can peak at tourney time and start to go in the right direction.”

Abby Chambers had a solid night for Sonoraville to lead the offensive statistics. The freshman had seven aces and four kills. Bree Steely had 11 assists, four kills and three aces, Kinsey Wilson added four kills, three aces and three digs, Alea Johnson contributed six assists and two aces and Anissa Hales had eight digs.

For Calhoun, the two wins made it eight in a row after an up and down start to the season. Rice said he likes the way his team is playing of late, but they still have improvements to make if they want to compete for the top spot in the area over the next few weeks.

“I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…we’re going to be as good as our captains and leaders demand,” said Rice. “Right now, we still have a few mental mistakes happening, and our communication needs to get better. The big thing for us is our serving. If we serve it well and knock people back off the net, we can be a really good team.”

Calhoun is on the road on Thursday at Bremen; Sonoraville will visit Haralson County for a tri-match against Haralson County and Chapel Hill.