By MATTHEW BROWN
Journal Sports Writer
Starting with this past weekend, the county high school volleyball teams are getting a look at those in Area 2-AAAAA representing Columbia County.
If state coaches polls are the indication, the favorite to win the area is Greenbrier High. Even though the Wolfpack swept through all three of its matches undefeated, it had all it could handle from Northside High and Houston County High, the host for Saturday’s contests that will help determine the seedings for the area tournament in mid-October.
The other school visiting Houston County High’s gym was Lakeside High of Evans. The Panthers appeared to be in a position to make it a real bad day for the Bears and coach Maria Huelsman, but it was Houston fighting its way out of more than one deficit to take the opening match 2-0 by scores of 25-21 and 25-23.
The Bears were slow in establishing their type of game, especially in the attacking department. Much of that can be credited to the back-court digging and front-court blocking from Lakeside. Viviana Garcia’s set for Sydnie Hicks’ long kill was the only such scoring combination the home team had in a long series of rallies.
In fact, a pair of hitting errors from the Bears put Lakeside ahead 7-4 in Game 1. Houston scored the next four points only to give the next three to Lakeside. The Panthers couldn’t block Garcia’s attack at the corner, but they still led 12-9 on a serve ruled an ace at a sideline.
Sierra Woodman began to emerge as a force at the net, and the Bears needed that trailing 14-10. She scored on her serve, and Hicks threw in a pair of points to get their team within two at 16-14.
When a sideout by Houston turned serve over to senior libero Megan Clark, the game’s momentum shifted to the Bears. From Gabi Clevenger’s block, Houston was back on top 18-17. Hicks smashed a ball Lakeside dug out of bounds for 20-17.
First-year setter Lainey Choiniere finally racked up some assists with Clevenger and Garcia converting. The serve then went to Langley Anderson, whose ace made it 23-18.
It took a few more rallies for the Bears to put the game away. Choiniere, after the Panthers dug out two deep hits, set Woodman for a key sideout at 24-21. The winning point came on Haley Cornett’s assist to Woodman.
Houston County had to battle from behind in Game 2, Lauren Vidmar trying to gain some momentum with her team trailing 4-1. She converted Choiniere’s pass outside to tie the game, and the Bears shot ahead 9-5 on Clark’s serve with kills from Clevenger and Vidmar.
The Bears maintained the three- to five-point advantage over the next 12 rallies, but with some mistakes the Panthers got closer at 15-13. Choiniere took her turn at serving and would set Vidmar for a key point (17-13). Lakeside’s two aces closed that gap to one at 18-17.
Anderson’s ace, though, capped a string of four straight. Up 21-19 with Garcia on serve, Clevenger hit a ball through blocks for 23-19. Lakeside answered with the next four points for a tied score, but a bad service error put the Bears in position to end the match with a win.
Greenbrier beat Houston 25-23, 25-11 and Northside 25-23, 25-20, but the Pack had no trouble with Warner Robins High 25-12, 25-9.
As bad as that margin was for the Demonettes, Tracy Fendley saw her girls bounce back and crush Lakeside 25-11, 25-17.
With Christina Murray taking the first serve, she scored an ace and made an impressive slide on the court to keep a point alive in a 6-1 Game 1 spurt. Jada Everett and Megan Hill also scored on the blocks.
On Kara Walker’s serve, Kate Hill and Megan Hill hit two smashing kills for a 14-4 lead. Megan Hill also aced a serve (17-5), and Murray sent a solid kill towards one sideline. Walker threw in an assist to Kate Hill for 22-6.
Even with Megan Hill making a great effort to get a digging point, the Demonettes found themselves down early in Game 2. Murray served Warner Robins back even as Lauren Saunders directed the court traffic for a set to Megan Hill.
M. Hill took serve still in a level game and saw Asha Stegall use some great reaction moves. On the outside, Stegall jumped for a quick hitting score in a 4-0 run. Murray gave Warner Robins a sideout from the outside, and Kate Hill served a pair of aces.
With Walker’s set to Stegall outside, the Demonettes led 14-9. Everett used her left hand for an alert hit, and Murray and Stegall paired for a block (16-9).
Lakeside put together a 6-3 run despite Everett scoring through the blocks. Sophie Brumfeld’s cross-court kill for a sideout set the Demonettes towards the win. Megan Hill also had a sideout set by Walker and aced two serves for 24-17.
Kate Hill’s attack ended it.