The Lake Oconee Academy volleyball team was on a hot streak entering play this week.
The Lady Titans improved their overall record to 6-3 and, more importantly, their area record to 3-0 following 2-0 wins over Rabun County and Washington-Wilkes last Thursday. That undefeated mark in the area meant LOA was among the top teams in the standings prior to this week’s matches.
“We feel really, really good,” Lady Titans junior Charlee Scheller said about the undefeated start to area competition. “We normally do well but it's more of a struggle. This year, we've kind of just finally clicked, so it's really nice having that and being able to go in there and just kill it.”
Last Thursday’s win over Rabun County marked the first time the Lady Titans have ever beaten the Lady Wildcats. Traditionally, Rabun is the team to beat in the area.
Now, LOA is in the driver’s seat.
“That was amazing,” LOA senior Lauren Eley said after beating Rabun. “I think we beat them one time last year in one set but they won the whole match. To finally beat them completely feels amazing in that region game so we can go far in region now and they're not No. 1. It feels so good.”
LOA opened the match against Rabun with a 6-0 lead in the first set before the Lady Wildcats called a timeout. The lead increased to 7-0 before Rabun scored its first point.
Rabun later made it a 9-5 game then 11-9 before the Lady Titans rallied to pad their advantage. The Lady Wildcats fought back again to make it an 11-8 game. LOA went ahead 14-9 then made it 20-9 before Rabun got back on the board.
After Rabun made it a 20-10 score, the Lady Titans rattled off 5 consecutive points to win the set 25-10.
In set two, LOA worked to a 7-3 lead before Rabun scored 4-straight points to tie it at 7. The teams traded points before LOA took a 14-11 advantage.
Rabun did not go away, though. The Lady Titans worked to a 20-13 lead before allowing the Lady Wildcats to make it 20-15.
The Lady Wildcats trimmed the lead down to 22-20. LOA inched ahead 23-20 and, after allowing a 21st point, eventually clinched the set 25-21.
“We're so excited,” Sarah Grace Ingle said. “Rabun has definitely been one of our rivals for a while. We came into this game, watched a bunch of film, and we were just ready. We really had to play smart, which we came through and we did.”
After beating Rabun, LOA’s players sat back and watched Rabun handily defeat Washington-Wilkes. Then, the Lady Titans played the Lady Tigers.
Washington-Wilkes went up 1-0 early in the first set. That proved to be the Lady Tigers’ only lead of the match.
The Lady Titans stormed back to take an 8-1 lead and force a Washington-Wilkes timeout. Their lead swelled to 10-1 before they allowed another point, cutting the lead to 10-2. But LOA came right back and scored 2 points before Washington-Wilkes scored again to make it a 13-3 deficit.
From there, LOA cruised to a 25-3 set victory. That final score repeated in the second set after the Lady Titans scorched Washington-Wilkes from the start of the match with a 6-0 lead then never looked back.
Last week’s victories followed up a pair of tough results one week prior. The Lady Titans played in Athens against Prince Avenue Christian and Clarke Central. Both matches resulted in 2-0 losses.
The Lady Titans beat Banks County and East Hall last Tuesday, though, before scoring the wins over Rabun and Washington-Wilkes.
Eley said that returning to the comfort of the Titan Center and increased focus helped the team mount the four-match winning streak.
“Part of it is playing at home with home court advantage. We play better (at LOA),” Eley said. “But I think we knew these were teams that we needed to beat. We really just bumped up the effort.”
That effort propelled LOA to a strong start in its all-important area matches, which will determine the seeding for the area tournament.
“Honestly, it's so exciting,” senior Lili Gayle said. “I was nervous with the seniors from last year being gone but we all came together and we've been killing it in practice. We've just been having fun. We have a good team, I think.”
This past Tuesday, LOA continued area competition with matches against Union County and Commerce. On Thursday, the Lady Titans were back at home for a pair of non-region matches against Mount de Sales and Westminster Christian.
They will host Monsignor Donovan on Monday before welcoming Putnam County and Elbert County next Thursday, Sept. 24, for senior night.
Considering the Lady Titans played four matches last week and the schedule won’t get any lighter, Scheller said it is imperative that the team maintains its determination. Scheller said the players must rest when they can and continue working on the fundamentals.
Additionally, Gayle said she and her teammates should remain upbeat no matter what happens moving forward.
“We're gonna practice hard,” Gayle said. “We're gonna keep a positive mindset and not stress out too much. We're just gonna have fun.”