A volleyball team’s ability to pass the ball can lead to reward or ruin, and Darlington and Armuchee displayed that in a non-region battle on Darlington’s Senior Night on Thursday.
Darlington took down Armuchee 25-16, 25-13, 25-16 in a best-of-five match at the Huffman Center, marking its fifth straight win. It was the perfect display of the kind of volleyball the Lady Tigers want to be playing with the postseason so close according to first-year coach Jared Willerson.
“Since the beginning, our focus has been to become a better defensive team and better passing team,” Willerson said. “We very rarely have missed assignments or overpass the ball. The results were really showing tonight.”
Recognized as seniors before the game, Darlington’s Callie Maffett recorded 24 assists, Julia Holmes had 12 kills and five aces, and Lizzie LaVangie tallied 11 digs. Alli Hagler led the team with 24 digs and Lucy Bearden had eight kills, three assists and four blocks.
Brandy Ann Wacker and Brette Bata each had seven kills for Armuchee, while Victoria Reese led the team with 12 assists.
The difference in the match came down to mistakes, with Darlington (13-10) avoiding them as it recovered on good serves and didn’t waste points. Meanwhile, the Lady Indians (14-11) struggled to move the ball around, leading to costly errors.
In those moments where Darlington shined with its passing, it was often the seniors who stepped up for the team.
“The seniors have just had a passion for volleyball,” Willerson said. “They’ve just had a willingness to improve and win. We’ve made strides and won matches that they didn’t win last year, and that comes from hard work.”
Armuchee coach Clint Decker had a far different experience, watching his team lose for just the third time in its last 10 matches. Armuchee’s errors helped the Lady Tigers make runs of 8-0 in the second set and 7-2 in the third set.
One of the largest goals Decker has had all season for his team is to improve at passing, and Thursday became a step backwards. The Lady Indians had plenty of hitters that could challenge Darlington, but they often didn’t get a chance.
“Our passing was just not good at all today,” Decker said. “And we need it to improve if we want to run the rest of our offense, so it’s got to be fixed.”
Darlington travels to Coosa to play the Lady Eagles and Dalton next Thursday, while Armuchee hosts Gaylesville, Alabama, on Monday.
Region tournaments begin for both teams less than a week after that, and both coaches hope the lessons on keeping possession will break through to their players.
“It’s really great to see this late in the season,” Willerson said. “These girls have bought into the kind of volleyball I want to be playing, and they’re doing it late in the season, at the perfect time.”