By R. Alan Richardson
In a great week of volleyball action, the Morgan County Lady Dogs came within one match of making the Final Four for the first time in school history. It took the team five sets to move to the Elite Eight with a 3-2 win over the East Hall that went down to the wire. MOCO took the first two sets 32-30 and 26-24 before the Lady Vikings rumbled back with wins in the next two sets 25-20 and 25-21. This was more than a nail biter folks. It was just plain good volleyball between two evenly-matched competitors. The final set was to be played to 15 points and Morgan squeaked out the last set by a 15-11 score. The suspense throughout the match was what you would expect in a bid for the Elite Eight.
Later in the week, Morgan’s Spikers came up a bit short to Greater Atlanta Christian losing in three sets 25-21, 25-17, and 25-17 to make the Final Four. All three sets were close and the Dogs fought until the final point to end a great season with an overall record of 24-10 and an Area Championship going 9-1.
I’ve said it over and over. You’re missing out on some fantastic athletic ability and non-stop action if you haven’t watched our girls play. They are well-coached by Olivia Daniell and play with reckless abandon. The number of floor burns, dives, and digs they get in a single match will rival any basketball game. They are fun to watch because they go all out. Every night.
Highlights of the East Hall match included Morgan’s come-from-behind win in the first set of the night. The team trailed by as much as 19-10 when Sam Crowley went on a six-point run that ended with a Vikings’ timeout. Trailing 22-18 Emma Silvey got a kill followed up by an Anna Cox point on a fake set at the net that fell in untouched. McKenzie Larate’s serve turned into a Brooke Butler hammer at the net that brought Morgan to within one at 22-21 and it was on from there. The game was then tied at 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 before a Larate serve ended the madness at 32-30 in Morgan’s favor.
The second set was back-and-forth the entire way. MOCO fell behind by as many as four points at 21-17 before Sam Crowley grabbed a point at the net and Nijah Young made a nice block to put the Dogs up 22-21. East Hall got a kill to tie things up at 24-apiece before Crowley’s serve was good and the Dogs got the win on a double hit by the Lady Vikings.
The Dogs lost set three after leading 16-12 when East Hall went on a five-point run to move ahead 17-16 and another run of five to take a 24-18 advantage before taking the 25-20 win to make things 2-1. They also got the fourth set 25-21 to put the match into sudden death. It was winner-take-all with the first team to 15 moving onto the Elite Eight. The Dogs jumped out to an early 5-1 lead on a Silvey slam and a Crowley serve and ace that were accompanied by a Larate kill. The team then sprinted out to a 12-5 advantage with Brooke Butler leading the charge this time. However, the Vikings weren’t finished and closed the gap to 13-11 before Bailey Shultz slammed the door with a backline spike to end the game. It was a wild finish and the Lady Dogs celebrated like it was 1999.
Greater Atlanta Christian ended the MOCO run last Friday in a home game for the Lady Dogs dashing their hopes of a Final Four appearance for the first time in school history. It was another great match between two good teams that ended after three sets, but Morgan didn’t go down easily. The final scores show how close the games were. The Lady Dogs are closing the gap on some of the elite private schools they have to face in the AAA playoffs.
GAC jumped out to big leads early in the first set at 5-0, 7-1, and 16-5 before MOCO fought back. With GAC leading 19-11, the Lady Dogs pulled to within two at 21-19. Silvey, Larate, Butler, Crowley, and Young asserted themselves at the net with blocks, points, and kills that kept them within striking distance down to the wire. Silvey’s spike made the score 23-21 before the Lady Spartans scored the final two points for the 25-21 win and a 1-0 lead in the three-of-five series.
The second set was another close one. The Lady Dogs came with one point after a Butler block on Larate’s serve at 12-11, but could never grab the lead. GAC went on a 7-1 point run to take the 18-12 advantage. Morgan never got closer than five points after that pivotal stretch in the set losing 25-17.
GAC came in as a number three seed from Area 4-AAA and play in the best Area in the state in AAA placing all four of their top four teams in the Final Four. (See my column for more on this).
Set three saw GAC jump out to another big lead at 7-2 before Morgan came alive and battled back to a 9-7 disadvantage. However, the Spartan scored four unanswered points to move out to 13-7. The Lady Dogs never quit. The play of Bailey Shultz, Larate, and Butler (who had a fantastic series scoring the majority of Morgan’s points on the evening) asserted themselves. They cut the lead to 14-13, but that was as close as they would get losing 25-17 for the 3-0 loss.