For the second time in the young program’s history, Statesboro High School volleyball will host a state playoff game.
Credit a new, smaller area to play in or just the hard work of head coach Bob Massee paying off since he started to program in 2011 —Statesboro’s volleyball team continues to progress year after year.
“I could not be more proud of these girls,” Massee said. “It used to be I couldn't just plug-and-play any girls on my team when I needed them too. We have that now as a program.”
Statesboro achieved their home playoff status Monday afternoon in the area 2-5A tournament, hosted at Statesboro High School. After finishing the season 5-3 in their area, Statesboro had earned the No. 2 seed via a tiebreaker with Ware County, who would be the No. 3 seed and Statesboro’s opponent in the first round of the area tournament.
The Blue Devil’s first game with Ware started about as bad as the imagination could wander. Statesboro went down 8-1 thanks to six errors on their own part —forcing a timeout by Massee to set things straight with his team.
“I think the biggest thing for us there was just taking a breath and settling down,” Massee said. “Just don’t worry about the score.”
Massee’s message hit home. Statesboro would rattle off an 8-0 run powered by four kills from Alecia Ormond. Up 9-8, Statesboro continued to control the pace of the game —going on an additional 9-3 run to be up a healthy 18-11. Ware County didn’t help their cause by committing three separate line infractions in that run, but Statesboro still pushed on through consistent offensive play from Kameron Parker.
But Ware didn’t die off so easy. Up 19-13, Ware strung together a 5-1 run to tighten the deficit 21-18 but killed their run with a service error. Parker capped the first game with a kill to seal it for Statesboro 25-19.
“This is a very resilient team,” Massee said. “They’re learning how to fight. That’s always a positive thing.”
Game two saw a much more competitive game from Ware County. The largest lead either team could sustain was just three points and the longest run was five points —which came from Ware County to go from being down 8-5 to up 9-8.
Down 13-10, Statesboro scored three straight to tie and then went ahead on an Ormond kill. From that moment on, Statesboro never trailed but never pulled out to a comfortable lead either. Ormond added three more kills along with six different errors by Ware County to give Statesboro the sweep with a 25-22 game two win.
“They were doing a lot of unorthodox things to get us out of system in game two,” Massee said. “They didn’t do the traditional one, two, three-hit offense, which got us off balance. It made us change how we had to play.”
The next game against South Effingham was a much different story. The No. 16 team in 5A, as rated by MaxPreps, wiped the floor with Statesboro in both games. Despite going up 3-1 early, Statesboro would go on to commit eight errors and force just two points as South Effingham roared ahead 13-7. The Mustangs would then finish on a 12-0 run, not committing a single error in their last 24 points.
While the second game was more competitive, Statesboro never stood much of a chance against South Effingham down their starting libero, Jordan Palmer. Palmer was out for the tournament and it forced young Carly Tillman to play an important role for the first time in her career.
South Effingham won game two 25-15, forcing an elimination rematch between Statesboro and Ware County —who had just eliminated New Hampstead.
“Give Ware a lot of credit, they were a pesky team,” Massee said. “They were aggressive defensively and never let anything hit the floor.”
Much like game one earlier in the tournament, Statesboro fell down 5-1 early on but would fight back to go up 10-8 thanks to great service work from Erin Daily.
Then Statesboro reeled off an 8-3 run off great offense from Betty Bird Newton and Maggie Davis. The offense would cool off down the stretch of the game, but seven combined errors and infractions by Ware County awarded game one in the rematch to Statesboro, 25-15.
Ware County came out in game two hot, scoring two kills and an ace to go up 5-3 early. But then Ware County started to pour on the errors —five to be exact —and Statesboro went back up 9-5. The two teams traded points to the score of 12-9 Statesboro, then Parker and Ormond added more kills to widen the gap 15-10 for the Blue Devils.
“As the games went on we were talking more and playing better,” Parker said. “I think it showed in the later games.”
A couple of errors from Statesboro brought Ware County back within three 16-13, but the Blue Devil’s would get a big run from Meredith Carter —who had three kills and a block to put her team up 23-15.
Once again Ware County refused to die off, as the Gators scored five straight points to cut the Statesboro lead to 23-20. But back-to-back errors by Ware County sealed the sweep and the home playoff berth.
“We’ve worked hard to get where we are and I’m proud of what we did today,” Parker said.
Statesboro had to come back and play South Effingham in the championship —and while the games were competitive the results were the same. In game one Statesboro made some noise by coming back from being down 12-4 to cutting their deficit to 18-17, but South Effingham would assert their dominance to finish the game on a 7-1 run.
“I think the first time around against South Effingham we came out flat,” Ormond said. “The second time we had a better fire. We wanted to win those.”
Statesboro (10-23) will now face Clarke Central (9-19) from Athens, the No. 3 seed from area 8. Despite their record, Clarke Central has played one of the toughest schedules in the state —much like Statesboro —and should be an interesting matchup for the young Blue Devils.
The match will start at 4:00 p.m. at Statesboro High School and will be a best of five games match. The winner will go on the road to face Ola (42-7) in McDonough, Ga., who swept area 7’s Rome (8-19) in three games on Wednesday.