By R. Alan Richardson
The Morgan County Lady Dogs came away with a win and a loss this week on senior night by defeating Cherokee Bluff 25-16/25-14 in straight sets while losing to a talented Oconee County squad by identical set scores of 25-17. The night was made special by honoring the only two seniors on this year’s team. Bailey Shultz and Nijah Young were recognized before the Oconee match. They have both played an integral part of MOCO’s success this season and an Area/Region Championship.
Shultz has been a four-year starter for the Lady Dogs as the libero while Young has shown her versatility this season at the net as a consistent blocker and scorer for Coach Olivia Daniell’s team.
Wanda Worrell commented on her daughter (Nijah Young) with these words, “She’s a very outgoing and always encouraging person to others and has still managed to keep up her good grades while playing. Nijah plans to continue playing at her school of choice while pursuing a nursing degree at Kennesaw State or Georgia Southern. Her great attitude will carry her a long way in life. I’m very proud of her.”
In the first match of the night Morgan took it to a young Cherokee Bluff Lady Bears group. The school is in its first year of existence and featured all underclassmen. The experience of the Dogs was too much as the final scores indicated. MOCO jumped out to an early 11-6 lead, but it dwindled to a one-point lead on three occasions. Morgan finally asserted themselves at the net. After a 13-12 advantage, the Lady Dogs went on a seven-point run to put some distance between their competitors at 19-12. A Brooke Butler kill and point and a Young tip was followed up by a McKenzie Larate service that Butler again scored on for the advantage. After that flurry, Anna Cox got a point off serve as did Shultz. Sam Crowley and Emma Silvey finished things off at the net for the 25-16 set win.
The second set was much the same. With the teams tied at 4-4, Cox reeled off five straight points on some nasty serves to put the Dogs up 9-4. It was all Lady Dogs after that as they coasted to an 11-point victory 25-14. Others that came in off the bench and played well were Gracie Christian and Faith Heuser.
It was a whole different game facing off with the Lady Warriors from Oconee County. Even though Morgan didn’t play their best volleyball of the season, the 8-AAAA foe came in sporting a 28-12 overall record and took the Lady Dogs down in two sets 25-17 and 25-17. The matches were much closer than the final scores indicated.
In the first set there were six ties in the early stages of the contest, but Oconee made a couple of big runs late. Shultz’s serve moved the Dogs to within one at 16-15 before a four-point run by the Warriors to go up 22-16. Silvey gave MOCO some life with a point of her own before Oconee got the last three points of the set.
The final set was similar in result with Morgan holding their own in the early stages of the set. Silvey got a slam and Larate followed that up with a big block to keep things close at 4-4. The game was knotted at 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, and 9-9. That was as close as the Dogs would get. Oconee put up some big service runs along with solid net play with the score at 13-11. They put up five straight points to take the 18-13 lead. The Dogs did fight back. On Larate’s serve, a great tip point by Cox and another net point by Butler, the girls moved to within three at 19-16. It was all Oconee after that. They ripped off the final seven points of the night to take the second set and match.
Daniell complimented her seniors with these words, “We did play well. I think the overwhelming nature of senior night got to our squad a little bit and played against us. Our seniors have been awesome. Bailey has been an absolute joy to coach. She is every coach’s dream. She works hard, gives it her all, and has the greatest attitude. I have no doubt her work ethic and enthusiasm will take her far both in her volleyball career and her life. I’m excited to see where she plays next year and continue to support her. Nijah was a great surprise for me this year! She is quiet but man is she funny! She brings an element of light heartedness that I think our team really needs. She serves as the quieter leader of our team- but a leader nonetheless. She shows up to every practice, listens, and gives full effort. I have greatly enjoyed coaching her this season and she will definitely be missed next year.”