Volleyball Spikes Their Way to Elite Eight

by Adena Perez and Maya Torres

After a record 40-7 season, the Lady Bulldogs volleyball team was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, also called the Elite Eight.

The team had been paired against McIntosh High School, the defending champions and predicted state champions this year.

“Our big goal was to win state, because we actually could’ve this year. We had the best record we’ve had so far, and we had such a good skill set that we really could’ve gone further,” said junior Debbie Kitzler. “We’ve been taken out by McIntosh in the Elite Eight for the past three years now, so wanted to stop that, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

Despite a close loss for all three rounds against McIntosh, the girls had high hopes for the final game.

“In the third set, we actually came in really strong in the beginning. I think it was like six to one us, so that was really good,” said junior Ava Grace Samford, middle hitter for the team. “We kind of thought we were going to win.”

The team has been training since August with the goal of being state champions in mind, while also winning as many matches as they could along the way.

“The only unexpected thing that we did, which was kind of awesome, was to win a big tournament at North Forsyth [High School], where a majority of the teams that we beat were 6A and 7A schools, so we won that tournament,” said Coach Lorri Reynold. “We did everything except for mak[ing] it to the finals this year.”

The team has done everything during practice, from learning to skills to conditioning themselves for games.

“We did a lot of running, weight training to get stronger,” said Samford.

Besides the physical aspect of training, an emotional aspect was added as playoffs approached.

“The week before, you know all [of the skills] you’re going to know. It was just about being more of a team, so we did a lot more bonding activities,” said Kitzler. “We went to the park one day, and just ate pizza and hung out. I’d say it was more learning about your teammates rather than learning about the game for the week leading up.”

Despite their devastating elimination from the playoffs, Reynolds felt a strong sense of satisfaction knowing that the team had done their best.

“We condition, we do mental things, we do obviously a lot of practice as far as the game itself, but I think we’ve prepared as well as we could possibly do,” she said. “I can’t think of anything that we could’ve done better or more to get there, and this has been an amazing season.”