The volleyball Battle of Hog Mountain played out in a high-intensity match.
Oconee County defeated rival North Oconee for the seventh time in eight games on Thursday, Aug. 26. The Warriors won in straight sets with scores of 25-18 and 25-20.
“They had a lot of emotion and that was my concern that with too much emotion, they might get a little helter-skelter there,” said Mark Oglesby, Oconee County head coach. “They were able to reset or keep it in check.”
Isabel Miller recorded six digs for the team’s back row defense. Miller had replaced setter Grace Wenrich in the Warriors’ victory over Chestatee on Tuesday, Aug. 24, while Wenrich sat out due to precautionary reasons. Miller returned to her usual position on Thursday as libero, a defensive specialist, when Wenrich returned.
Oglesby prepared to match the Titans’ defensive pressure. They had finished their last practice before the game with a drill called “garbage.” This drill forced the players to chase after balls and find a way to keep it in play.
Oconee County added pressure of its own at the net, recording five total blocks on the night.
Sophomore outside hitter Bailey Bartlett led the offense with a team-high six kills along with four digs. Bartlett currently ranks second on the team in kills, following her sister, Brinley Bartlett. Both Bartletts rank among the top 10 in kills in the state for Class AAA.
Despite the strong offensive presence, the Titans’ dominant back row was able to force errors from Oconee County. The Warriors ended the match with 13 attack errors and nine service errors.
In her Battle of Hog Mountain debut, first-year head coach of North Oconee Jordan Childs made sure that no matter the outcome, her team would step on the court with excitement.
“The girls brought an infectious energy to the court and worked hard at each and every point,” Childs said. “Unfortunately, Oconee had some top-notch hitters that we couldn’t shut down. Each athlete left all they had on the court. I’m proud of the way they competed.”
As a young coach amid a changing program, Childs and the Titans aren’t as focused on results as they are overall improvement. They have adopted the word “kaizen” for their season to represent this mindset. Kaizen, a Japanese term for continuous improvement, is the goal Childs has for her team as the season progresses.
“Each time my athletes step out on that court, they are better than they were the last time, which is all I have asked of them,” Childs said. “They are truly living out the word kaizen each practice and match.”
Along with their playing, Childs and the Titans have implemented kaizen into their program’s culture off the court.
“We are building a new culture in the volleyball program here at North and this is just the beginning,” Childs said.
On the other side of the net, Oglesby and the Warriors put an emphasis on a focus to minimize unforced errors following the matchup.
“Who can make the adjustments? You need to be able to make the adjustments,” Oglesby said to his team between the first and second set. “And we did adjust, we made better passes… if we made a mistake, just try to reset them mentally and tell them to focus, focus, focus.”
Assistant coach Rachel Ritchie, a Georgia alum, has helped implement a new mentality with the Warriors. Ritchie has introduced drills to specifically help the team focus.
Her presence at practice has additionally allowed individual attention for players who want it during drills.
“All of them are listening to her,” Oglesby said. “She’s got street cred.”
North Oconee volleyball faced Athens Christian and Lake Oconee Academy on Tuesday, Aug. 31. Oconee County faced Hart County and East Jackson as they traveled on Tuesday, Aug. 31, after press time.