The Walters State volleyball team may only be three years old,
but it's growing up pretty quickly.
The Georgia Northwestern Lady Bobcats found out the hard way on Sunday afternoon.
Facing off on the Lady Senators' home court in Morristown, Tennessee with a berth in the NJCAA Region 10 tournament at stake, Walters State didn't waste much time in scoring a straight sets win, 25-11, 25-17, 25-14 to earn the region spot.
Scoring chances were few and far between for the Lady Bobcats as a good portion of their shots fell outside the boundaries of the court or were found by Walters State defenders.
“I think there were some nerves and emotions on our part, being our first time in a (regional) qualifier, especially from my sophomores,” head coach Carrie Powell said. “They knew this was their only shot at going on and advancing (to the regional tournament). They wanted to win so bad, but it just came down to the fact that (Walters State) had a couple of great hitters on their team and our defense hasn’t seen someone hit it like that all season long. I think we were a little shell-shocked.”
The match had post-season implications for the first time in the history of GNTC's seven-year program, while the Lady Senators advanced to the Region 10 finals last year before falling.
GNTC (2-5) fell behind early in the opening set, but rallied to cut the gap to 7-6. However, that would be as close as the Lady Bobcats would get as the home team nosed in front 12-9 before reeling off 11 straight points to take control.
Walters State (9-2) jumped out to a 7-0 advantage in the second set and eventually stretched out the lead to 23-11. Katlyn Bishop came off the bench to serve GNTC back to 23-17, but the momentum was short-lived as the Lady Senators were finally able to put the set away.
The Lady Bobcats fell behind 5-1 in the third set, but begin to find their rhythm as they fought back to take a 7-6 lead, their first lead of the match.
But the lead would only be temporary as the Lady Senators clicked off three straight points to regain the lead, 15-8. They would not be threatened again as they polished off the match.
“That was by far the best team we’ve played this season,” Powell explained. “They were a little more prepared since they been in this type of setting before and we haven’t, but now we know what to expect for next year.
“We hung with them in that second game and pushed a few points there toward the end, but we will learn from this. There is definitely room for growth on our end.”
Freshman Whitley Starnes powered Walters State with a dozen kills, while fellow rookie Leslie Berquist added five. Sophomore setter Taylor Rymer added 30 assists in the victory.
Casey Chapman had a team-best six kills for the Lady Bobcats to go with six digs and an ace. Layna Jenkins finished with two kills, two digs and two blocks. Sabrina Garcia had two kills and two blocks. Rachel McGill collected an ace to go with seven assists.
Other standouts included Holly Mount (4 blocks, 1 kill), Katlyn Bishop (2 aces) and Mikiah Treece (8 digs).