Emily Shafer was happy to give credit where it was due after Saturday's GISA state volleyball final.
The Augusta Prep junior, after her team fell 3-1 to Calvary Christian, congratulated the Knights.
"They were so consistent," Shafer said. "They had the best serves."
The Cavaliers were the back-to-back defending state champions, but didn't want to think of their runner-up finish Saturday as the end of an era.
"It's the start of a new one," Shafer said. "We've got a good team coming back."
The Cavaliers were playing host to their shot at a third title in a row. But Calvary Christian, No. 1 in the latest GISA coaches' poll, survived a gritty semifinal match to beat Pinecrest in five games, then outlasted the Cavaliers in the final.
"All teams that win championships ... are going to find out eventually, one, it's hard to climb that mountain, and two, it's hard to stay on top," Prep coach Rich Bland said. "This is our third year in a row of climbing it, getting right near the top, and we fell a little short."
Augusta Prep graduated two all-state players from last season's title team, but returned a tall front line that the Knights thought might give them some trouble.
But Calvary Christian exploited what it saw as a hole in the middle of the Cavaliers' defense. The teams split the first two games before the Knights pulled away to win the last two, 25-18, 25-17.
Bland thought the outcome could have been different in the first and third games. The Cavaliers led by as many as four in the first game before falling 28-26. In the third game, Bland's team held a 14-7 advantage, but was outscored 18-4 the rest of the way.
Each time the Knights got down, coach Megan Moore would call a timeout and regroup. Each time, her team responded.
"Just play with heart -- that's what I told my girls," Moore said.
The Knights' semifinal match took its toll. After their 15-12 win in Game 5 against Pinecrest, Knights junior Ivey Roper suffered an asthma attack.
But the Knights rested while waiting for the Cavaliers to play their semifinal. And the Knights came out rested for the final.
"We knew they were going to be really tough," Shafer said. "We came out prepared, but they were just better."
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