MOULTRIE – With a day full of region volleyball coming up Saturday, Colquitt County High met the challenge of another non-region foe Tuesday on William Bryant Court. The Packers improved to 2-2 overall with a 3-0 sweep of Early County High, and now look ahead to not only facing all three Region 1-7A foes Saturday at Lowndes High but also a big road trip Thursday to play Ware County High.
“I think sometimes we don’t show what we’re actually capable of against some of the teams we’ve played,” said head coach Ron Fowler. The Packers so far played Early, Brooks County and Thomasville, all from the same Class AA region. “(Tuesday) we came out and played with a lot of confidence. When we play with confidence, there’s no cap on what we can do as far as our abilities. We knew coming in they were not going to be the traditional pass-set-hit team. No matter what they threw over the net, we got in rhythm, pass-set-hit and get the ball over. We played our volleyball.”
The three set scores were close to equal, 25-12, 25-11 and 25-11. The closest point where Early County looked to be contending with the Packers was in set No. 2 and the visitors scoring four points in a row. That made the Colquitt County lead at the time 6-5, and Saralyn Nelson, the setter, earned an assist to Grace McKee. The sideout point gave serve to a fastball pitcher, Gracie Long, and the hosts were comfortably back ahead 15-5.
It was the sideout points that were especially important for the Packers Tuesday.
“We want to stop the serve on the first attempt,” said Fowler. “Most times when they served, we came out, pass-set-hit and won the point. That’s something we’ve really been working on the past couple of weeks.”
It also helps to rack up service aces, and Nelson and Long did that in the opening set combining for three in the first eight rallies (7-1 Packers). Early County was solid in the digging game, for it took 12 turns before Nelson made her first assist. The next service ace went to Lyla Roberts, but then the Lady Bobcats responded making a point inside the back line. It was still a Colquitt lead of 12-8.
Shadasia Reynolds four times had her attacks dug out before slapping back a shot (14-8). Sarah Beth Glass, playing the libero, and Nelson served aces in Colquitt’s run to a 10-point advantage at 19-9. Though Early was able to dig away one more Reynolds hit, Long’s powerful serving surged the Packers to set point. Hits from Reynolds and McKee produced that winning score for 1-0.
To build Colquitt’s lead to 6-1 in the second set, Nelson served two aces and set three assists hit by Long and Reynolds. After McKee cashed in the fourth assist for her setter, Long took that serve and added six aces to her total. Nelson found McKee for her fifth assist of the set and 16-6 lead.
Reynolds gives Fowler height at the net, and so does a volleyball newcomer in Autumn Hampton. With Reynolds on serve, Hampton slapped back a Packer point, something she would do a few more times before it was over.
“This is (Shadasia’s) third year playing, so she’s getting better and better,” said Fowler. “Autumn, she just started with volleyball in January. Everything we tell her, she picks up. Any adjustments, she soaks it up. Our net play looked much better.”
Hampton’s slapping provided the needed sideout late in the set, the lead still a comfortable nine points for Colquitt (20-11). McKee got into the serving fun with two aces, and Hampton earned credit for the close-out point.
Reynolds opened the third set with a tap score at the net, Eknadia McIntyre made her first kill thanks to Nelson’s passing and two points came from Long, one being a sideout score hit from midcourt. For all her work in digs and passing, Glass also put a point up hitting the ball.
“She played the back row a lot for us as a freshman,” said Fowler about Glass. “We knew coming in she was going to be a big part of we do. She impresses so much. Before the first region game of the year we called her up, and she gelled well with the girls. Even as a ninth grader, she was telling people where to go on the court. Anytime on the bus she’s watching film on volleyball.”
Hampton tapped two more points up close, including a sideout with the Packers up 9-5. McKee on serve found the fair spot inside the right sideline for aces extending the lead to 13-5. When Early County closed that gap to six points twice, the Packer sideouts came as Nelson tapped the ball over up close and Reynolds sent the ball back over by herself. She did that a second time following Nelson’s assist to Lilly Fykes, who scored for the first time (21-10). The final sideout was by McKee assisted by Nelson, then Hampton scored blocking the ball and Nelson aced the final two rallies.
“It was nice to see us put together what I call a complete game,” said Fowler. His team’s schedule for Saturday at Lowndes is to play the Vikettes, Tift County and Camden County back-to-back-to-back. “We got to see Tift this summer. We were supposed to play Lowndes, but that day they had bus trouble, so we never got to see what they can do. We know we have to play our best volleyball and hopefully come away with some of our first region wins.”