In what Coach Tanya Porter called a good week, the Dawson County varsity volleyball team picked up an emotional victory over rival Lumpkin County during the region tournament to earn a spot in the Class AAA state tournament in only their second year of existence.
“I can’t say enough about the Lumpkin County game,” Porter said. “I called them over and said this is exactly what we wanted. They were fired up, pumped up from the get go.”
During the Oct. 3 region tournament at Greater Atlanta Christian the Lady Tigers first faced East Hall and lost early in two sets: 16-25 and 21-25.
A solid Lady Vikings team attacked behind Niayah Rucker who posted 29 kills on the night.
“East Hall, we knew it would be a tough match and we know that we come out of the gates a little bit slow traditionally,” said Porter. “I thought we played okay in those matches against East Hall. They have got that phenomenal hitter.”
Dawson started with kills from Harmony Evans, Roxie Fricton and Chloe Bennett. Bennett’s kill came after a perfectly placed dig from Kati Brady for setter Brittany Sayler.
Sayler then served an ace.
It was a tight back and forth with Dawson leading 10-9 before East Hall would go on back-to-back serving streaks to go up 16-12 and stay on top.
In the second set, East Hall got up early with solid hitting up front, again with Rucker’s kills and blocking.
Dawson called a time while down 10-4.
Fite picked up a kill right down the line and the momentum swung back to the Lady Tigers with Sayler serving two aces and errors from the East Hall side.
Savannah Thellman’s left-handed serves caused more trouble for Dawson as did libero Summer Lindsey’s who aced the Lady Tigers twice.
The second match came against Union in the loser’s bracket and Fite rattled off 7 points to open with two aces before Friction would go the service line to add 9 more including two aces of her own.
“Union, they are a beginning program,” Porter said. “That was a much bigger confidence building path to take, setting us up for Lumpkin.”
Fricton teed off at the net and took advantage of the Panthers’ defensive struggles on the way to Dawson’s 25-10 victories in both sets.
The final match of the night against Lumpkin seemed to be
the one the Lady Tigers were waiting for after losing to the Lady Indians on
Sept. 26. Dawson won in three sets: 25-23, 24-26 and 25-11.
“When we lost to Lumpkin up there in the region, it was a gut punch to say the least,” Porter said. “I told the girls after that match…God has got something bigger for us. This is not the venue or the platform that He intended for us to beat Lumpkin on. It is going to be much bigger for us to beat them in the region tournament.”
Evans, Bennett and Fricton were particularly effective at the net in the early going as Dawson stayed just a point or two behind Lumpkin throughout before a couple of service errors let them in.
A massive kill from the middle by Fricton sparked the Lady Tigers and Fite followed it with a cross court shot to make it 20-19 Indians.
Dawson took advantage of late set hitting errors and Bennett served the final two points and then picked up a kill for the win.
Lumpkin battled back in the second set coming up with 10 kills and five aces.
Bennett had five kills up front and Fite added four.
Another significant Friction block prompted a Lumpkin timeout when Dawson was down by 2 points. The Lady Indians hung on for the 26-24 win.
“They expected to beat us in two. Losing that second set I thought oh man. They came over to the huddle and they were fired up…they said we’ve got this,” Porter said.
In the last of the three, the Lady Tigers were motivated and started fast. After opening up a 6-1 lead with Fite’s four aces and six points, Dawson never trailed.
“I was praying the whole game, ‘ok God this is what you set us up for. I know you are going to deliver us through this.’ More than winning the game, it was kind of a spiritual confirmation. He puts us through some things, but He’s got the bigger picture, you know?” She said.
The Dawson offense was solid up front and the Lady Tigers won 25-11.
“They did not lose their focus and they were close. I was super proud of them for that. They had a goal and they delivered. I can’t say enough about that experience for them,” Porter said. “That was just a really good moment in my coaching career and Dawson County volleyball for sure.”
That win sent the Lady Tigers to North Hall on Oct. 5 for a series of matches to determine seeding for the Class AAA state tournament.
Dawson again faced a tough East Hall program and lost in two sets, 16-25, 21-25.
“I thought we played well,” she said. “I thought the errors we made resulted in points for them…and we didn’t score off of their errors. I told them Wednesday at practice that this matchup is bigger.”
Fite had seven kills in the match and Friction added another six with two big blocks.
After a Five cross-court kill, Fricton used the Viking blockers to score before the next possession when an overpass by East Hall resulted in another Friction kill from the middle.
Fite worked well from the service line, including an ace to bring Dawson within 2 and prompt a timeout by the Lady Vikings.
East Hall, however would go on a run from their next serve to take the first set.
A much tighter second set saw Sayler paint the back left corner with an ace from the service line before adding two more points on serve.
Dawson took a 12-7 lead and then an East Hall run from the service line put them up 15-12 before Fite would break the serve with a kill.
The Lady Tigers battled throughout but Rucker’s attack on the front line proved formidable and the Lady Vikings over powered them.
Porter adjusted the Dawson defense but it was not enough.
Following the matches, the announcement of the all-region team was made and senior Fite was honored from Dawson County.
The loss gave Dawson a No. 4 seed for area 7 and puts them in the tournament against No. 1 seed Westminster who is ranked 10th in the state after week seven standings.
The Lady Tigers will travel to Westminster today for the first round match.
“Westminster is a good program that has been around, lots of experience, lots of club ball experience. You want to be happy getting there, but you also get there and get a little taste of wanting more,” Porter said.
Dawson County is now 24-19 overall.