It's no secret that Harlem's volleyball program isn't the best in Columbia County.
For at least one game, however, the Lady Bulldogs forced the county to take notice. Facing Greenbrier on Tuesday, Harlem took game one from the annual volleyball powerhouse 26-24.
Greenbrier rebounded to take the match at two games to one, but the message was clear: Harlem, led by coach Mike Hopkins, has a talented volleyball team.
"Mike's had an outstanding turnout, and you can tell," Greenbrier volleyball coach Debbie Born said. "They're closing the gap because they're willing to make that commitment to become better. They took us to three games."
The impressive game against Greenbrier was no fluke. Harlem also lost to Evans on Tuesday night, but the Lady Bulldogs still left the two matches with a 17-3 overall record. Their undefeated 9-0 record in Region 3B-AAA play makes them a shoo-in for the top seed in the subregion tournament.
Hopkins said if all goes well, the Lady Bulldogs should earn a bid to the state tournament. That's why he scheduled two of the top teams in Columbia County to come to Harlem on the same night.
"I know. It's crazy. What was I thinking?" Hopkins joked before the matches. "This is a great opportunity. We can play, and then we can sit down and watch them transition and learn a few things. This is a good warm-up for the region and state tournament."
The Region 3B-AAA Tournament will take place at Harlem on Oct. 7. That Saturday tournament will determine the top two teams from the subregion. Those teams will get automatic bids to the state tournament and will advance to the Region 3-AAA finals Oct. 14.
No team in either subregion has a record even close to Harlem's. Born said the Lady Bulldog squad could be even better.
"One thing that's hurting Mike out here is he's got a lot of eighth-graders that could play, but the principals won't let them play," she said. "Some of those girls aren't playing a fall sport, so why not let them play volleyball at the high school?"
Born did get principal approval to allow an eighth-grader at Greenbrier Middle to play on the Greenbrier High School junior varsity squad last season. This year, she's a freshman on the varsity team.
Born said she hopes to see other talented middle schoolers get their opportunity to play.
"We've got to have a big attitude check," she said. "We need middle school volleyball. We should give these girls every opportunity to play."
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