HAHIRA –– Valwood volleyball (20-4) capped their regular season with a sweep against Brooks County (4-20) on Thursday and will head into the GISA state playoffs as the No.1 seed in Region 2.
The three sets were won with ease and the game wasn’t considered a close one.Valwood’s Kennedy Kimbro led the team with 15 assists and the only senior, Gracyn Sanderlin, shined on Senior Night for her final home game at Valwood. She finished with eight kills, a team high, and four aces.
“Seven years is a long time to be with a kid,” said Valwood head coach Val Gallahan about her time with Sanderlin. “She’s sunshine and rainbows, she’s always so positive and happy that she brings that kind of energy to the team. Not only are we going to miss her as an athlete but we’ll miss her leadership, her positivity, and I’ll just miss her as a person.”
As the lone senior, Sanderlin will lead her team to the state playoffs for one last ride.
Just last year Valwood saw themselves in the state championship game against Heritage and lost to the defending champions. Heritage is entering as back-to-back defending champs and is the No. 1 seed in Region 3 with a 25-5 record.
In the first round, Valwood is set to play Fulton Science Academy (8-7). The winner of that game will move on to play the winner between Augusta Prep Day and Young Americans Christian.
“I think we’re going to face teams that are really tough but if we play to the best of our ability I know that we can win,” said Sanderlin. “Really I think about our attitude going into it and our mental toughness, playing smarter not always harder. I think that’s going to be the most important thing.”
Given Valwood’s position, they’ll be looked at as a top team to knock off in the playoffs and they feel good about themselves coming into it.
“We went up to Lee County and they’re such a good team,” said Gallahan. “The way that our kids played, they really hung with them. Our kids really stepped up, they played really well and I would compare Lee County to some of the best teams in our state so if we can hang with them then I feel pretty confident going into it… if our kids play like they did that game we should be OK.”
Valwood played Lee County and gave them a run for their money. In a best two out of three, Valwood lost the two sets 25-22 and 25-23.
Valwood’s road back to the championship game will start against Fulton Science Academy on Friday, Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. in Alpharetta, Ga.