After losing four starters off its 38-2 team that advanced to the state’s Elite Eight in 2012, 2013 was viewed as a rebuilding year for the Greenbrier High School Lady Wolfpack volleyball team.
However, after rebounding to erase an 0-2 deficit, beating Northside, Columbus in a rousing five-game match in the second round of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state playoffs Tuesday night, back in the Elite Eight is where the Lady Wolfpack find themselves once more.
“We were rebuilding but we rebuilt it to the end and we’re at the apex right now and that’s what it’s all about,” said Lady Wolfpack head coach Debbie Born, who called the match the best comeback of her career. “This is the epitome of what a season is about.”
The remaining eight teams will be reseeded with the next round tentatively set for Saturday.
After losing the first two games 25-17, 25-20, the Lady Wolfpack (28-14) took the last three by 25-14, 25-22 and 15-13 margins.
“It’s the most amazing feeling ever,” said Lady Wolfpack senior captain Gabbi Meyering. “No one expected us to come this far, no one even expected us to go to state and we’re Elite Eight now and that’s amazing. I couldn’t be more proud.”
The teams played each other at a tournament in Conyers, Ga., on Sept. 21, with the Lady Wolfpack beating the Lady Patriots (29-13) 27-25, 25-16. Despite knowing what to expect, Greenbrier didn’t look like a team that had won 18 of 21 contests entering Tuesday night.
After Lady Patriots’ outside hitters pounded hit attempts for kills repeatedly in the first two games, they began making errors. Born said the change was simple.
“We didn’t challenge them with a hard pass or any kind of hard ball,” Born said. “We didn’t challenge them and that’s the difference, you know. At this level you’re even on both sides.”
Like the entire match, the Lady Wolfpack made the fifth game hard on themselves. Up 12-8, Greenbrier let the Lady Patriots come back to tie the game at 13. Lauren Ingalls set up DeJhana Cotton for one of her team-high 23 kills to take a 14-13 lead, then they celebrated wildly as the Lady Patriots’ last hit attempt fell harmlessly into the net.
Ingalls set up five different teammates for kills, finishing with 39 assists while registering three kills herself. Defensively, Cotton and Katie Anne Wood led the way at the net with 3½ blocks, along with two from Krystyna Bartocci.
The players realized it was offensively where they needed to improve if they wanted to win.
“The first two games our passing was pretty off so we couldn’t run our offenses as much as we wanted to,” said Wood. “We knew we really had to step up our passing, and we did.”
The Lady Wolfpack got to the fifth game after breaking a 22-22 game-four tie with Cotton and Meyering kills sandwiching a Northside, Columbus error for the win.
After dropping the first two games the teams took a 10-minute break, and Born was able to really talk to the team.
‘‘I said no regrets, my friends,” Born said. “I’m waiting for my team to show up and they finally showed up. I said ‘you take one point at a time, one game at a time and there’s no panic.’”