A key timeout call plus a complete change in attacking attitude spurred Darlington’s volleyball team to a huge second-set comeback Tuesday night, leading the Lady Tigers to a 25-21, 29-27, 25-19 win over Our Lady of Mercy in the second round of the Class A Volleyball State Playoffs at Darlington.
Trailing by seven points late in the second set, Darlington coach Aaron Wilton called a timeout, attempting to settle his players down and remind them there was still time to make a comeback.
Whatever other words Wilton chose to say in the timeout worked wonders as the Tigers’ offense turned ferocious and began attacking the net.
Anna Kate Dulaney pounded six kills and had a key block over the duration of the set, helping lead Darlington to the 29-27 win.
Rachel Simon also added two key kills as several other Tigers came up with big plays, snatching the second-set victory away from the Bobcats, who were only three points away from a win at 22-15 before the Darlington rally.
“I don’t know if I said anything magical. I just told them to keep their poise and that there is always time to mount a comeback,” Wilton said after the match. “I told them to stay calm and play our game. They took a deep breath and were able to refocus and go out there and play aggressive.”
A couple of early blocks at the net in the second set might have gotten into the Tigers’ heads, but Wilton’s words reminded them how to attack.
“I think we got a little bit tentative, and we were afraid to swing for a while. They went out and got aggressive with their swings, and it paid off,” he said. “I noticed that she (Dulaney) was going on a little bit of a tear, and I advised our setter about her options. Anna Kate swung well, and she got some really big points for us.”
Behind the ferocious kills from Dulaney and Simon, the Tigers not only played aggressively but grabbed the momentum and refused to let go.
The ferocity carried over into the third set when the Tigers jumped out to an 11-2 lead behind some strong serving from Amita Reddy.
Reddy recorded four aces during the run and helped set the tone for the final set.
“Amita came in and hit some real tough serves and kind of put them on their heels, and they were a little shellshocked there,” Wilton said.
“She also had a great dig in that run, so she came in and provided a nice boost for us.”
The Bobcats did rally, but three strong service aces from Sam Horton and two late-set kills from Simon, including the game winner, proved too much, and the Tigers celebrated their second-round playoff victory.
In the first set, Darlington rallied to tie the set midway through behind a couple of key aces from Harton, and Reeves Trivette had a key kill late to help get the first set win.
Statistically, several Tigers had huge nights. Harton recorded six aces and 12 digs, Dulaney and Elizabeth Wilhoite each slammed home eight kills, Simon had 12 serves and five kills, Sydney Arthur contributed 23 assists, and Reddy added 16 serves and four aces.
The Tigers now advance to the final six but must wait a day to find out who they play next. The Georgia High School Association will meet today and seed the remaining teams.
The top two teams receive byes into the semifinals, while the No. 3 seed will play host to the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed will play host to the No. 5 seed in matches this Saturday.
“Winning and advancing is huge. We haven’t been this far in about eight years,” Wilton said. “I think we’re playing really good volleyball at the end of the year, and that’s all we can ask.”
Not knowing their next opponent yet doesn’t seem to faze Wilton.
“If we want to keep winning, we need to continue doing what we’ve been doing,” he said. “That’s being aggressive, staying poised under pressure and taking care of our serving and our passing. If we take care of those four things, it really gives us a chance to be successful.”