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Upstart Statesboro eyeing volleyball playoff run

Upstart Statesboro eyeing volleyball playoff run

Upstart Statesboro eyeing volleyball playoff run

    Statesboro’s volleyball program is in just its third year of existence, but don’t tell the Lady Blue Devils that new teams aren’t supposed to have immediate success.
    Last season, the Devils made a surprising run all the way to the Class AAAA state playoffs. From there, they nearly pulled off a huge first round upset.
    This season, Statesboro has been hard at work proving that last year’s emergence was no fluke.
    “We came into the season with a lot of expectations for ourselves,” SHS coach Bob Massee said. “We also wanted to challenge ourselves. This season’s schedule has been a lot tougher, but we’ve grown from it.”
    The Devils (24-14) have taken on 10 teams that have been ranked in the top 10 of their classification this season. Statesboro took some lumps early, but progressed to taking a few games as the season progressed. Last week, the Devils’ regular season ended on a high note against top-notch competition with wins over Richmond Hill and Savannah Arts Academy.
    That momentum carried into qualifying for the Area 2-AAAA tournament over the weekend. Statesboro qualified as the No. 2 seed and will travel to Hephzibah to take on Glenn Hills this evening. A win will match the Devils up with either Richmond Academy or Hephzibah later in the evening.
    A clean sweep will put the Devils in position to play for the area title and will clinch a second consecutive trip to the state tournament.
    “We really believe that we have a good chance,” Massee said. “This team has a lot of focus, athleticism and competitiveness. When we put those all together, we know that we can compete against anyone.”
    This season’s squad returns all but one player from the 2012 team.
    Senior setter Maggie Ray has averaged over eight assists per match while outside hitters Tess Newton and Chante Branch are each putting home about seven kills per match. When serving, Chelsea Wilson has been a big weapon for Statesboro with 20 aces.
    The Devils are getting contributions from players young and old while Massee credits the bench with being the vocal leaders of the team.
    Instead of hitting a steep learning curve as a new team, the Devils have stuck together and have grown as one over the program’s short history.
    “These girls are like sponges,” Massee said. “We continue to learn, but this year has definitely been more enjoyable from a coaching standpoint. Instead of just trying to keep the ball in the air, we’re getting more complex and able to do a lot more.”
    Statesboro knows that it hasn’t punched its ticket to the state playoffs just yet. The Devils are focused on today’s games, but also know where they stand in the grand scheme of things.
    “It would be great for a third year program to be going back to state,” Massee said. “This is a team that has immersed itself in becoming a competitive group. We’re excited to have another chance to perform well in the postseason.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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