South Aiken’s match with Augusta Prep on Wednesday had no bearings on the T-Breds’ chances of making the Class AAAA playoffs, but the win was an example of what might get them there.
The T-Breds, currently in fifth place in Region 5-AAAA with two matches remaining in the season, beat the Cavaliers 25-20, 25-18, 25-23 but trailed several times in the last two games. In the second game, South Aiken (12-7-1) trailed 7-1 early and then 12-7 before going on a 13-point run to lead 20-12. In the third game, Augusta Prep again led by six at 12-6 before the T-Breds rallied to tie the game at 14, 18 and 20. The Cavaliers led as late in the game as 23-20 before the T-Breds closed out the match with a five-point run.
Head coach Teresa Carter said that ability to get up off the mat has shown itself on multiple occasions this season.
“They’ve done that all year,” Carter said. “That’s how good this team is; they can come from behind.”
She pointed out that even in the team’s Tuesday loss to North Augusta, it faced big deficits before nearly running the Jackets down on multiple occasions.
One key to those comebacks has been the play of junior outside hitter Bailey Parker, who had 13 kills in the home win over Augusta Prep. Her all-around play has been crucial for keeping rallies alive, but Carter said the best is still yet to come.
“She is a powerhouse,” Carter said. “She has a lot of talent; she has a lot of potential that she still has a year to mature.”
Carter added that in Tuesday’s three-game loss to North Augusta, the Yellow Jackets were able to win by neutralizing her star hitter.
One player that is tough to negate in the T-Breds’ game plan is junior setter Lauren Howard. After securing 25 sets on Tuesday, Howard got 26 in Wednesday’s win. Carter said that Howard excels in the duties that come with playing the setter position, which include knowing how well the setter’s team is lined up.
If the team is prepared to attack, the setter must deliver the ball to the proper hitter for a kill. If the team is disorganized and scrambling, the setter must find a way to push the ball deep into the opponent’s side of the court to give her teammates time to adjust.
Carter said Howard is up to the challenge.
“A setter is the quarterback of the team. ... (Howard) is very smart,” Carter said.
Cat Luther and Elizabeth Butler have also been at the forefront of the T-Bred attack for most of the season, but Wednesday night, it was Jessica Murphy’s turn to shine. The junior, whom Carter expects will graduate after this year, did a good job of making decisions at the net and choosing the proper shot.
“Tonight, Jessica Murphy stepped up,” Carter said. “She actually stepped up the best I’ve seen her all year.”
Murphy and the rest of the T-Breds couldn’t pick a better time to bring their best effort of the season. At 3-5 in region play, they trail White Knoll and North Augusta, which are tied for third in the region at 4-4. Only the top four teams from each region qualify for the state playoffs.
South Aiken plays White Knoll at home tonight at 7 p.m. before playing in the Island Bash Tournament in Myrtle Beach over the weekend, and they host South Aiken for senior night on Tuesday at 7 p.m. A win over the Timberwolves would create a split in that head-to-head series, which the T-Breds already have with North Augusta. The Jackets close out the year at Aiken and at home against Dutch Fork, while White Knoll hosts Lexington next Tuesday.
The tiebreaker in Class AAAA volleyball if two teams have the same region record and split their season matches goes to points scored in those matches. Because the Timberwolves’ Sept. 20 win was a five-game match (25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 15-9), South Aiken could guarantee itself the tiebreaker advantage with a three-game win today.
The T-Breds would still need help – unless they could upset their rival Hornets on Tuesday – in the form of a White Knoll loss to Lexington, but Carter says this year’s South Aiken players believe in each other in the face of any deficit.
She highlighted that belief as the main improvement she’s seen in this squad over last year’s T-Breds that missed the playoffs.
“Well the ability to come from behind, the ability to not get down on ourselves,” Carter said of her team’s best attribute.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.