Athens Academy volleyball now owns victories over the other top programs in the county.
The Lady Spartans recently earned a win over North Oconee High School after previously topping Oconee County High School and Prince Avenue Christian School earlier in the season.
The Spartans hosted the Titans last Thursday for a three-set match and took the win in straight sets with scores of 25-15, 25-5 and 25-17.
Athens Academy head coach Jane Thomas credited the victory to her team’s aggressive offense.
“We got into our groove at that point and I think we were serving tough,” Thomas said. “I think those two things just really sort of let us get a jump on them and then we were just able to keep the pressure on without letting up much on our side.”
The Spartans finished the match with seven total service aces. Mary Miller was responsible for three of those.
They additionally outscored North Oconee offensively, recording 36 team kills from six different players. Senior Peyton Wheeler led with 11 of those kills, the only player to reach double digits.
“We obviously rely on Peyton a lot for offense, so a lot of it falls into her lap many times,” Thomas said. “She had a lot of confidence and was feeling good. I think she was just having fun taking big swings and it was working.”
She added her skills in the back row, tallying 17 of 66 total digs.
Athens Academy limited consecutive points for North Oconee. Thomas said that had been a problematic area in recent matches. Her team would experience lapses, allowing opponents to score consecutive points. According to Thomas, those lapses were not an issue in the game against North Oconee.
The match resulted in Athens Academy’s 23rd win of the season in 24 games, one of the best starts in recent program history.
The Spartans’ only loss of the season came four games back. Sandy Creek forced a deciding third set and ultimately took the win.
Thomas said the loss was a good lesson for her team.
“We have to sustain throughout the whole match. We can’t give up a bunch of points in a row, we’ve got to find a way to play more consistent and get the ball back,” Thomas said. “They’re a really good team, it was fun volleyball. But I think it helped us to understand we have to fix things on our side in order to win.”
Even with the regular season over in three weeks, Athens Academy continues working on the basics in practice. Thomas focuses on the basics because they will always appear in matches and make the biggest differences.
North Oconee’s loss to Athens Academy marked a fifth loss in six matches.
The Titans have time to improve upon their 6-10 record in region play with playoffs in mind. A touch schedule with opponents like Athens Academy and George Walton Academy prepared the Titans for the difficulty of region play.
While the state playoffs are often exciting for players, three weeks still remain in the regular season. North Oconee will face six region opponents and Athens Academy will play three. These matches determine their area rankings and possibly playoff seeding.
“We’re always kind of looking out in the future, but we have three region matches still coming up,” Thomas said. “Those are super important, so the postseason doesn’t really mean anything unless we can take care of those first. Our focus is just on the next couple weeks, really, before anything else.”
The Titans traveled to play George Walton Academy on Sept. 14 after press time and will begin region matches Thursday by hosting East Hall High School. The Spartans will return from a 12-day-long break on Sept. 21 by hosting Gainesville and region opponent George Walton Academy.