Just like its cross-town rival North Oconee, the Oconee County volleyball team would not be the same without a set of twins.
Bailey and Brinley Bartlett, only sophomores, have already made waves in the program as the Lady Warriors prepare for the state playoffs.
The addition of assistant coach Rachel Ritchie, a former Georgia volleyball player, has already helped the outside hitters reach beyond their potential this season.
According to Brinley, Ritchie’s experiences at high-level volleyball help the Lady Warriors in game-like situations.
“It’s been a lot more consistent with getting progressively better instead of having a really good practice and a really good game and then not being consistent,” Bailey said.
Head coach Mark Oglesby has noticed fewer errors and more reliability from the twins in comparison to last season. He has seen their hitting percentages improve, leading to more leadership and responsibilities from the Bartletts.
“Continuing to be the offensive threats for us because either one of them is in the front row every time and they can put a ball away at any point,” Oglesby said. “Just stepping up when we need that point and doing that. The more that they can do that, the better off that we're going to be.”
Despite this season’s performances, the freshmen seasons for Brinley and Bailey did not come easy. Neither sister was a starter last year and one even changed positions. Oglesby has seen their dedication to the team and flexibility on the court only benefit them in their sophomore season.
“[Brinley] was always an outside hitter, but we needed her in the middle, and it was a lot of responsibility to put on her shoulders and she took that and did so well with that now that she can just go back out to her natural position that she likes,” Oglesby said. “Just watching her be consistent throughout on the court and be a leader, push herself to be better every day, I've really seen that and appreciate that.”
At her typical position this year, Brinley leads Region 8-AAA in kills with 230. That ranks third in the state for Class AAA.
Bailey is not far behind. Her 164 kills ranks third in the region and 12th in the state for Class AAA. These numbers have helped Oconee County reach a 30-5 record as of press time Tuesday.
“[Bailey] has actually taken on a lot of responsibility of trying to be a leader, even [recently] in practice,” Oglesby said. “When our captains were involved in a drill, she was the one who stepped up to be vocal, but she's also taking some of the offensive weight on it and being somebody to count on.”
The Bartletts pride their team’s success on maintaining good friendships off the court. Oglesby said the players often go to other sporting events or dinner together.
The relationships translate on the court when a teammate needs help.
“I think we’re all just really good friends, too, so even on the court it’s more fun and we can always correct each other without seeming mean,” Brinley said.
The twins, having played together since they were 9, always find ways to help the other get better, whether it’s on purpose or by simply playing together.
“She’s smarter with her ball placement so seeing how she changes her swing from ball to ball helps me visualize like, ‘Oh, maybe I should do that,’” Bailey said.
Oglesby believes the twins have an opportunity to win the region all four years of their high school careers. The Lady Warriors were the Region 8-AAA champions in 2020. If they want to repeat that title, they will have to get through four more region matches this season, including a match against Hart County, which currently ranks second in the area behind the Lady Warriors.
Oconee County previously won the matchup in two sets, making the repeat title even more possible.
“Last year we won that trophy,” Oglesby said. “I told the girls that's a legacy for that team and if we can do it again their sophomore year, that just adds to that legacy.”