Another Sweep: Valwood volleyball breezes past rival Valdosta, 3-0
Valwood volleyball breezes past rival Valdosta, 3-0
VALDOSTA –– For the second time this season, the Valwood Valiants knocked off rival Valdosta.
Much like the first meeting on Aug. 29, the Valiants did so in dominant fashion –– sweeping the Lady ‘Cats 3-0 on Tuesday.
In the deciding game, the Valiants jumped out to a 6-1 lead early. Though the ‘Cats narrowed the deficit to 9-7, the Valiants responded with a 6-1 run to go ahead 15-8 –– forcing Valdosta head coach Anna McCall to call for time.
The timeout did little to quell the Valiants’ momentum as the team put together another surge to take its largest lead at 22-10 after a smash by Valdosta’s Isabel Kassum sailed long. The ‘Cats would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way, losing 25-16.
“The key was our leadership on the court,” Valwood head coach Val Gallahan said of Tuesday’s sweep. “Unfortunately, we had an injury to one of our starters yesterday so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare for her replacement. But Chesley Wetherington came in and when her number was called, she really stepped up. I thought our team captains, our senior Gracyn Sanderlin especially, she kind of kept everyone composed. The girls just executed –– they did what we’ve been practicing all season.”
Junior captains Kennedy Kimbro and Makayla Yates starred for the Valiants on Tuesday. Kimbro had 23 assists and 13 digs while Yates led the team with eight kills in 11 attempts.
In Valdosta’s final home match of the regular season, it appeared things would be different from the opening tap as the Lady ‘Cats jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first game. But the Valiants battled back to win 25-17 in a seesaw affair that featured nine ties and nine lead changes.
“I feel like we were probably a little more ready in the beginning,” McCall said. “A lot of times when it’s close, it’s hard for us to stay up with the team. We missed some key plays that kind of put the team down. We let (Valwood) get a run on us instead of fighting back, but in the second game, we came back and got head-to-head with them. Even though we came from behind, if we would’ve just played more consistent –– we made some mistakes at key points that caused the team to be down and it was taking us too long to get back up.”
Game 2 saw the ‘Cats jump out to a 7-5 lead on a serving error by the Valiants’ Bailee Musgrove. The Valiants quickly tied the game at 7 then pushed in front 9-7. Following a kill by the Valiants to take a 10-8 lead, the ‘Cats began to unravel as three straight errors pushed the Valwood lead to 13-8, forcing McCall to call timeout. Valwood took control with a 6-0 run that was finally stopped on a kill by Kemari Smith to bring the score to 14-9.
Once again, errors hurt the ‘Cats as three straight miscues helped the Valiants to their largest lead of the game at 19-11.
In a swing of momentum, the ‘Cats began to rally as Adair Rodemaker came up with an ace, followed by a pair of errors by the Valiants that pulled them within three before Gallahan called timeout.
A kill by Stanashia Wright capped a 7-0 run by Valdosta to draw them within one, 19-18. The ‘Cats would get no closer, however, as a block by Sanderlin put Valwood up 23-20 and the Valiants went on to take the second game 25-21.
“I think we were a little bit smarter with our serve and who we chose to serve,” Gallahan said of Valdosta errors. “Looking at the other side of the court, Lilly Parrish –– their libero –– is just an excellent passer so we obviously tried to tell our kids to keep it away from her. Luckily, our girls were able to execute in doing that. We were trying to be smarter with what we did with the ball, not just playing a ball to get it over the net but to try to find a strategic place that would at least make their offense more difficult to run and slow down some of their big hitters.”
Parrish had 16 digs for Valdosta. Rodemaker had a team-best seven kills along with 11 digs and two aces. Kemari Smith and Shamyiah Bethay added four kills each while Kassum smashed two aces and had a team-high 10 assists. Reese Adams had eight digs and Alivia Fennell had six assists for Valdosta in the loss.
Being swept by the Valiants twice this season is a bitter pill to swallow for the ‘Cats. When both teams play well, McCall enjoys the rivalry most. But for the rest of the season, McCall says, her team has to learn how to play through its mistakes and maintain its level of play.
“It’s never good to lose,” McCall said of the rivalry. “They’re a good team –– they play fast. When we play each other, when we both play our best game, it’s great. We just need to learn to continue to play great and not let a mistake or two get us. It’s always tough to lose, but you’ve got to learn to lose like you’ve got to learn to win.”
With the victory, Valwood improves to 18-3 on the heels of an 11-match winning streak.
“Here in town, Valdosta is just a wonderful program –– Coach McCall does a really good job,” Gallahan said of the rivalry. “As a volleyball community, my husband (Chad) and I have played on the weekends with them. I always feels like there’s some pressure here. They’re a great program so we know we’re going to get a really competitive match every time we see them. I’m glad that our girls were able to execute and show some mental toughness when it really mattered.”
Valwood: Travels to face Lee County on Thursday before visiting North Florida Christian on Oct. 8. The team will wrap its regular season at home against Brooks County on Oct. 10.
Valdosta: Goes on the road to face Lee County in the Region 1-6A tournament to finish the regular season. The team will be in action again when the Class 6A state playoffs begin Oct. 19.