The Morgan County Spike Dogs overcame several challenges on the way to the state final of the GHSA volleyball tournament but ran into a private school buzzsaw in the title game.
Westminster won their seventh volleyball state title Nov. 7 by defeating Morgan County in three straight sets at the Lake Point Sports complex in Cherokee County.
The Spike Dogs fell behind early and lost the first set 25-16 and then dropped the second set 25-11.
Morgan County High School students got involved by chanting “We’re not private,” at certain points during the contest.
The Spike Dogs kept it close early in the third set, but Westminster reeled off 10 straight points on the way to the win.
Coach Kathleen Goodwin said the Westminster squad played a great game.
“They ran a really fast offense, their hitters were really powerful, and their block was tough to get around,” Goodwin said. “They were well coached, disciplined and very talented. It was a well-deserved win.”
While the game didn’t turn out as the girls wanted it to, Goodwin said the team has plenty to be proud of.
“Our mood leaving that gym was not one of sadness, but rather one of celebration.” Goodwin said. “They made it further than any Morgan County team before them, they grew as a team, and they played for the love of the game. Sure, in the end they fell short of a championship, but in my book, they won by making it there in the first place.”
Some spectators found fault with the officiating, but Goodwin said she didn’t think that had much impact on the result.
“Sure, there was a line call or two that might have been questionable, but that’s the way the sport goes,” Goodwin said. “We did get called on some things that we haven’t been called on all year, and that shook us a little. But we did our best to move on and look forward to the next point.”
The Spike Dogs will lose six seniors who have played an integral role in Morgan County’s success, according to Goodwin.
“They were calm under pressure, they knew how to work as a team, and, of course, they were powerful players,” Goodwin said. “It is hard to deny Brooke Butler’s stats, both offensively and defensively: she was the kill leader every match and ended the season with the most kills and second most digs on the team. Our setter Anna Cox had an outstanding season and always modeled what hard work looks like. She was always asking how she could get better, and she grew so much this year. Gracie Christian, our right back defensive specialist, was the most consistent passer and defensive player on the roster. Emma Silvey, our right side hitter, consistently came through in clutch points at the net and was a beam of joy on the court. Faith Heusser, our left back defensive specialist, had the ability to snag up balls that looked otherwise un-gettable. McKenzie Larate is not only an outstanding player at the net and on serve, but her leadership and positivity was a key ingredient to this team’s success. The seniors really showed each other and the younger girls on the team (and in the entire program down to the middle school and recreation league level) what competitive volleyball looks like and how to play with humility and grace. I do think that this group will leave a huge legacy on the program long after all the girls on my current roster are graduated and gone.”
The loss of those six girls to graduation is going hurt, but Goodwin thinks the team is headed in the right direction.
“I choose to look at it as this: half of my roster, plus three girls who played up from JV in the postseason, are coming back,” Goodwin said. “I had three sophomores on my starting line up who were consistently stats leaders and shone on the court in their own right alongside the senior class. Addy Christian came in as one of three new players on the team and took the role of libero in stride, which is hard to do.”
Goodwin said the team also has three outstanding juniors returning whose leadership and work ethic and talent cannot be overlooked. There are also girls on the JV roster who might have been on the varsity squad in any other year, Goodwin said.
“From what I have seen and heard, the eighth graders coming up from the middle school are competitors, too,” Goodwin said. “It’s going to be a ton of fun.”
Goodwin said that Butler has been named to the Georgia Volleyball Coaches Association AAA All State Team, and Anna Cox received an honorable mention. Only 10 girls from AAA made the list at all.