Darlington, Chattooga, Calhoun and Sonoraville stand one win away from reaching the final six in the state volleyball playoffs, and today each team takes the court knowing all they have to do is win to extend the season.
At Darlington, the Tigers, who earned the No. 3 seed out of Area 4-A, play host to Our Lady of Lourdes, the No. 4 seed from Area 3-A, at 5 p.m. at the Huffman Center.
The Tigers have played strong all year and boast a senior-laden lineup looking to continue their season.
“It’s awesome for me. This is my first year so I don’t have a great understanding of the history of the program. From what I understand, it’s the first time we’ve ever had the opportunity to host in the second round,” Darlington coach Aaron Wilton says. “This is a great opportunity for the girls to be able to share this with their classmates, and have them come out and support them.”
As far as scouting the other team goes, Wilton says he doesn’t know much about today’s opponent, but is instead focusing on what the Tigers need to do to try to win the match.
“To get this far in the state playoffs, they have to be a good team.”
“We need to play at the same level or better than we played last week,” Wilton said. “I’m stressing to the team that we have to be prepared to play well and be mentally prepared to play our game and take care of business at the net.”
The Tigers knocked off Fellowship Christian last week in three sets in the first round of the playoffs.
“I’m asking the girls to work on serving and passing, because I feel like if we can take care of those areas of our game, we’ll do well,” Wilton said. “The girls have a great opportunity. They’ve worked real hard and if they can come in and play like they’re supposed to they have a chance to go on to the next round.”
Much like Darlington, the Chattooga Indians took care of business in the first round sweeping to a three-set victory over Lamar County. The win marked the first volleyball playoff victory for the school in only its third season of play.
Unlike the Tigers, the Indians have to hit the road to play today’s match travelling to Columbus to take on Kendrick the Area 1-AA champion.
“I talked to a coach down there (Columbus), and she said they (Kendrick) are very, very athletic. That coach said she hasn’t played against a better group of athletes,” Chattooga coach Pickle said.
“We’ve been working on using some of our taller girls to try to combat the athleticism they play with.”
The Indians have been solid all year, winning the regular season Area 5-AA title and placing second in the area tournament.
“We’ve played well but we have to cut down on the mental errors, and we really need to be able to get our serves in about 95 percent of the time,” Pickle said. “If we can do that and stay away from losing focus or mental lapses, we should do well.”
One thing that has surprised Pickle about his team’s run through the playoffs is the amount of excitement it has created in the Chattooga community.
“This has been the great. The community is really excited and the enthusiasm has seemed to double over the last week,” he said. “People are emailing me and congratulating me, and hopefully that will be good for the program. I’m hoping this excitement will get some more girls interested in coming out and playing.”
An Indians win would put them into the final six of the Class AA playoffs, something Pickle says he would love the team to experience.
“It’s been a while since Chattooga had a sport go deep in the playoffs. If we could do it in only our third season, that would be something,” he said. “It’s not only good for the school spirit, but for the community spirit as well.”
Calhoun, the Area 5-AA, champion plays host to Jefferson tonight at Calhoun.
The Jackets made short work of Temple last week and are now looking to win and advance to the final six.
Sonoraville the Area 4-AAA champion also plays a home match as the Phoenix are looking to top Oconee County to advance to the final six.
Once the final six teams are decided in Class A, AA and AAA, the Georgia High School Association will seed them.
The top two seeds receive byes into the final four, while the No. 3 seed will play host to the No. 6 seed Oct. 26 and the No. 4 seed plays host to the No. 5 seed.
The winners of those matches advance to the state semifinals to be played on Oct. 30 at Marietta High School.
The championship matches will be played at Marietta High School on Nov. 1 and 2.
Jim Alred is New Media Director for News Publishing Company.