The first round of the 2018 GHSA Volleyball State Championship got underway on Saturday, Oct. 20 as the Dawson County Lady Tigers (No. 3 Area 7-AAA) traveled to Calhoun to take on the Murray County Lady Indians (No. 2 Area 6-AAA) in a best of five sets, winner-take-all contest.
After a tough fight that featured multiple lead changes, gigantic swings in momentum and excellent play on both sides of the net, the Lady Tigers held off the Lady Indians with a 3–1 victory to secure their berth in the second round of the state championship.
Tipping off at noon, the Tigers came out in the first set eager and energetic and quickly moved out to a commanding lead over the Lady Indians, who seemed off-kilter and confused for most of the set. Murray County managed to break serve a couple of times during the opening tilt but never managed to put together a solid offense and Dawson County took the set by a score of 25–12.
The second set went in the opposite direction for the Lady Tigers as Murray County grabbed the momentum with a quick 6 points on their opening service and turned it into a double-digit lead as the set progressed. Despite strong serves from sophomores Olivia Walls and Makale Everett to close the gap, the Tigers could not regain the lead and dropped the second set 25–19 to allow the Lady Indians to even up the match at one each.
“The girls definitely came out ready to play in the first set,” said Head Coach Tanya Porter. “They played well, and it led to a little bit of over-confidence in the second set.”
Set three turned into a defensive battle early on as the teams traded volley for volley and point for point through 22 serves that left them tied at 11 points each. Finally, with Walls at the line and Marlie Townley dominating the center of the net, the Lady Tigers put together a string of 9 unanswered points to take a commanding lead.
Murray County fought back with a run of their own, but Dawson County held on to take the third set 25–19 and head into the fourth set with the 2–1 advantage.
Once again, the teams traded points with neither one able to gain more than a 2-point lead at any time. Tied at 11 for the second time in two sets, Porter called a timeout and gathered her team around at court side.
Back on the court and coming to the service line with the tournament future in her hands, Townley put the ball into play for 11 straight points to double up the score and completely drain the momentum from the Lady Indians. The end of the match came on a double-touch penalty against Murray County to give the Tigers the 25–13 set victory and a 3–1 match win to secure their place in the second round of the tournament.
“I told them that historically, our season history shows us that this is the point that we begin to doubt ourselves. This is when we begin to make errors, stop communicating with each other and lose games,” Porter said when asked about the fourth set timeout. “I told them that this was their chance to change history.”
The Lady Tigers continued their shot at history in the second round of the 2018 GHSA Volleyball State Championship Oct. 23 in Calhoun, this time taking on the Calhoun High School Yellow Jackets (No.1 Area 5-AAA). Results were not available as of press time.