Looking to add another first to the First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s growing list of sports accomplishments, the Lady Highlanders volleyball team won its first state playoff match on Monday, beating Bethlehem Christian Academy, 3-2 (27-25, 25-27, 25-15, 18-25, 15-12).
The First Presbyterian girls were able to make quick adjustments when Amanda Whilden stepped in halfway through the season as the new head coach.
“The girls responded very well to the sudden change,” Whilden said. “The seniors all stepped up and took on an even larger leadership role. They were amazing with the junior varsity and varsity teams to help me make the transition very smooth.”
Whilden said she also received help from Kevin Habick, who agreed to help her coach the girls.
“He did an excellent job working with them,” Whilden said. “We would not be where we are without his help. This season the volleyball team won their first ever playoff game.”
The new coach said the team, which finished 3-4 in the conference, traveled to Bethlehem anxious and ready to play.
“The team we faced was very good defensively,” Whilden said. “They returned many balls that we did not expect, and we ended up with a very tight match.”
The coach said Alex Moses did an excellent job at running the offense from the setter position.
“She enabled our hitters to really attack the ball,” Whilden said. “Amber Cromeenes and Megan Gillon both played excellent at the net. They both had three blocks each and hit very well to the open spots on the court. Julia Malcolm played her best match of the year and had five kills. “Kayla Dargan served extremely strong and gave us the lead every time she served. The main reason the girls were able to pull out the win was the leadership of our senior libero, Morgan Dixon.”
Whilden said the girls were down, 4-1, in the fifth set when Dixon gathered the team to have a pep talk on the court. They came back, took the lead and, ultimately, the match.
“They worked together as a team and pushed through to the end,” Whilden said.
On Friday, the Lady Lander head to Mount de Sales in Atlanta for round two of the Georgia Independent Schools Association state playoffs.
“We do not know many specifics about the team,” the coach said. “They won their region and have not lost any matches this year.”
But Whilden said her team is playing its best volleyball to date and has persevered against many tough teams, including cross-county rival Faith Baptist.
“Playing teams like Faith Baptist made us realize how good we could be and showed us how to lift the level of our game,” she said. “If we lift our level, I believe we will match up very well with Mount de Sales.”
She said that as the season progressed, the girls gained a better understanding of the game and how it should be played.
“They are understanding their positions and seeing across the net,” Whilden said. “They are starting to recognize open areas and using that knowledge to get points. I am really excited to see how much they have grown and are still growing. I am very proud of all the girls and the hard work they have put into this season.”