After losing Game 1 on Tuesday, Augusta Christian trailed visiting Augusta Prep by a sizeable margin late in Game 2.
Then, the Lions fought back.
Though the game -- and a 25-9, 25-23, 25-23 match -- eventually went to the Cavaliers, the moment was a big one for the Lions' volleyball team.
"They really came alive," Augusta Christian coach Chuck Renfro said. "We've been working on moving a lot faster to the ball and covering each other. It's starting to pay off."
Renfro said he was proud of the fight his team showed, especially without four-year starter Rachel Scaffe, a junior who could not attend Tuesday night's match. Playing up from junior varsity in her place was eighth-grader Ali Ritch.
In Game 2, the Lions nearly tied it before the Cavaliers pulled ahead to win. In the final game, the score was knotted at 23-23 before Augusta Prep won the final two points.
"We wished we could've done a lot better. We knew we could've done a lot better," sophomore Stephanie Bloedel said. "Augusta Prep's a hard team. We're just a young team and I guess we did pretty good.
"Every time we play them, it's been kind of a blowout. This year, I think we have a chance."
Nearly getting over the hump in the final two games gave Augusta Christian hope for the rematch -- Oct. 14 at Augusta Prep.
Renfro said one of the concerns for the young team (Annie Cave is the only senior) has been having only a handful of team members who play developmental volleyball outside of the school team. One of those is Bloedel, whose powerful finish on kills and strong serve gave Augusta Prep some trouble on Tuesday. Danielle Mulherin also had a strong performance, Renfro said.
On the other side of the net, Sarah Sussman led the way for the Cavaliers. One of four seniors on the team, Sussman had eight kills and two blocks.
"We have some very good middle blockers, especially Sarah, and very good offensive power, with Sarah inside and Elizabeth Hayes outside," Augusta Prep coach Rich Bland said.
"When our serving is consistent ... and when we're passing well," he added, "we can get the ball to our primary hitters and really do a good job of putting the ball away."
Sussman identified intensity as an issue for the Augusta Prep squad. In one game, she said, the team might have full concentration and focus, but might lose it again the next game.
"We need to pick up the intensity," she said. "We get up, then we back off. We've been trying to work as a team, pushing and staying focused and not letting up."
Bland noted that Augusta Christian's program has shown growth and that Tuesday's match exemplified that.
The match came on the heels of the Augusta Prep Invitational Tournament held the previous weekend. Both teams were in the field for the tournament.
In that event, Augusta Prep played a familiar opponent in Calvary Christian.
The two teams have met twice in the Georgia Independent School Association championship match; Augusta Prep won in 2006 for its first state title, while Calvary Christian won its lone state title in the 2008 matchup.
Defending state champion Pinecrest has since moved into the public-school Georgia High School Association, leaving Calvary as the main target for the Cavaliers.
The two teams played in the weekend tournament, with Calvary coming out on top, winning the final two games after Augusta Prep won the first.
"Calvary's the team to beat," Bland said.
Augusta Prep will play host to the GISA State Tournament in October.
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