After losing a tight second game in a best-of-three match Tuesday evening against Johns Creek, Greenbrier High School’s volleyball team went down 7-1 in Game 3.
It was a situation that required plenty of character, and Wolfpack head coach Debbie Born knew this was the type of team that would show it.
The Wolfpack fought back, and even had a few game points of their own before falling 29-27 to the Gladiators.
“I give my girls a lot of credit for coming back,” Born said. “They could’ve laid down and died right there. I was very pleased with their effort tonight.
“We dug balls out that were just incredible.”
Johns Creek, ranked No. 4 in the state, advanced to the Class AAAA Elite Eight with a 25-18, 25-19, 29-27 victory in the second round of the state playoffs.
Greenbrier’s players sold out even more than usual for digs on this night.
Kayla Berns ran over a metal folding chair on the sidelines – on two occasions – just to keep a pair of points alive.
“You’ve just got to keep telling yourself to play hard,” said Berns, a senior setter. “This is it. If we don’t win this game, then that’s it.”
The Gladiators (48-9) steadily built a lead en route to an opening-game victory.
The Wolfpack (27-6) grabbed an early advantage in Game 2, but their opponents won six consecutive points to go up 19-13.
Though Greenbrier rallied with a four-point run of its own, Johns Creek closed out the game with four of the final five points.
While the first two games featured intense, high-level play, Game 3 was on an entirely different plane.
Greenbrier went down early, then trailed 21-19 on the brink of elimination.
Five points later, the Wolfpack led 24-21 and were one point away from forcing a fourth game.
The Gladiators rallied, though, evening the score.
It brought the home crowd at Greenbrier to its feet.
“We probably wouldn’t have been able to stick with these guys tonight if we didn’t have people cheering so loud,” Berns said.
The Wolfpack fought off three match points before Annika Olsen closed it out with one of her match-high 14 kills.
For Greenbrier, senior Alex Powell had seven kills, while juniors Jennifer Purucker and Kenzie Schwartz each had six.
Berns added 15 assists and nine digs.
Powell said it was a fitting end to a solid season and career.
“We fought so hard, and I have to say I think that, no matter what, we gave that last game our all,” the outside hitter said.
Born has noted that this Greenbrier team doesn’t have one or two “heroes.” Instead, it’s a collection of solid players who play as a team.
It was evident late in the match, as the Wolfpack got contributions from heralded and unheralded players alike.
Schwartz had three kills in the span of five points late in Game 3. Gabbi Meyering, a mid-match substitution, came up with two late kills to keep Greenbrier close.
Born said that this team ranks among the three best she’s coached at Greenbrier, and those three are neck and neck as the best.
“It’s been such a great year for us, but all great things have to come to an end sometime,” she said.
Greenbrier won 15 out of its last 18 matches. It finished second in a loaded 20-team Conyers tournament field.
It also won the Region 2-AAAA title.
“It was a team,” Born said, “that just got better and better as the year went by.”