October 31, 2012

Hard path to a title for Lady Raiders

Top-ranked teams clash in semifinals

Southeast Whitfield senior setter Hannah Graham admitted a victory for her team “would be an upset.”

Lady Raiders coach Jake Dickey called top-ranked Sandy Creek’s outside hitter “one of the best in Class 4A.”

Four rounds into this year’s volleyball state playoffs, Southeast will take the court as the underdog for the first time.

The Lady Raiders (37-10) and Lady Fighting Patriots (35-19) will meet at 7:30 tonight at Atlanta’s Marist School in the Class 4A semifinals, with the winner earning a spot in Saturday’s state championship at Marietta High. Columbus (29-25) and Marist (23-10) will play in the 5:30 p.m. semifinal at Marist.

The Lady Raiders are ranked No. 2 in the Class 4A coaches poll, just behind Sandy Creek, and both teams won their respective area championships.

However, the Lady Raiders are seeded fourth in the state tournament bracket, while the Lady Fighting Patriots are the No. 1 seed and won the Class 3A state title in 2011.

The Lady Raiders had never advanced past the second round before this year, but they were the higher-seeded team in each of the first three rounds this postseason and defended their home court against Lanier, Jonesboro and Woodland-Henry, dropping only one game total in those best-of-five matches.

But tonight will mark the first time the Lady Raiders have faced an opponent seeded or ranked better in the 2012 postseason.

“They obviously (seeded) us No. 4 because they thought we were No. 4,” Graham said.

“If we beat them then we proved them wrong, and if not then we were No. 4. ... We’re trying to prove something.”

The outstanding player Dickey spoke of is Allie Davenport, and he has designed the Lady Raiders’ game plan around defending against her height.

“She is 6 feet and has a 10-feet, 1-inch approach jump,” he said. “I pulled her (video) up on YouTube. She’s pretty nasty.”

The Lady Raiders have been practicing against someone of similar height, though — their coach, who played collegiate basketball.

“She’s about like me, so I’m going to get out here and pound balls tonight,” Dickey said Tuesday. “I’m going to dust off the old bones.”

Southeast sophomore middle hitter Yolanda Melgarejo believes it’s all about doing anything to slow down the speed of the ball and succeed in digging it up.

“If we can dig one out of five balls, then we’ll be good,” she said. “If we can get a touch on it, then it will be a lot easier to dig.”

There are other ways Southeast can disrupt Sandy Creek’s offense and keep Davenport from getting kill after kill, Dickey said.

“It’s digging, and we’re going to try and keep them out of system,” he said. “If we serve it tough, then it’ll be tough for them to get it to her. If we send them easy balls and they set it on the net, then she’s just going to pulverize us.

“They have a couple of weak passers we can go after. That will help us keep it away from her, if that’s possible.”

Southeast won the Area 7 title and Sandy Creek took home the Area 3 championship. So it’s not a huge surprise these are two of the final four teams remaining, but Sandy Creek coach Paul Collins and his team does not focus on wins and losses, seeds or rankings.

“We don’t focus on that,” he said. “The polls can be different. We’re going to play a quality opponent. The fact that it’s No. 1 and No. 2 is kind of cool.”

Collins, who has been Sandy Creek’s coach for 12 seasons, knows little about what the Lady Raiders will bring to Marist.

“That’s kind of the thing,” he said. “I’d rather it not be the case, but we really don’t know that much about them, so we have to take them seriously. ... Over the years, I’ve always found them as one of the stronger programs in that area.”

Despite Southeast’s recent success — five trips to at least the second round in the past seven years — Sandy Creek has more.

The Lady Fighting Patriots also won the Class 4A state title in 2008 and advanced to the state title game in 2010.

That’s more evidence, in Graham’s opinion, the Lady Raiders are not favored to win.

“We’re just going to come out and see what we can do, and hopefully pull off the upset,” she said. “It would be an upset, because they have literally the best player in the state and are the defending state champs and go this far every year.”

Text Only
  • Todd roasted 1 mlh.jpg One last 'Goodbye' for coach Todd

    Charles Todd talks to parents and coaches before his going-away party Tuesday in the Dalton High School commons area.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing Lures3cw.jpg Turner lured into love of learning fishing business

    Fishing and tall tales go hand in hand, and after nearly three decades in a business supplying local anglers, Phil Turner has heard just about all of them.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S. Amateur dreams over for local golfers

    Dalton golfers Chase Miller and Will Morrow traveled to Cincinnati on Tuesday in an attempt to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, but neither earned one of the three qualifying spots at the 6,588-yard, par-70 course at Camargo Club.

    July 23, 2014

  • Report: Boggs now with Giants

    Dalton’s Mitchell Boggs has signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants, according to Contract information, along with which minor league affiliate Boggs, a pitcher, will start with, was not available in the report, and Boggs was not listed on any of the online rosters for any of the Giants’ minor league affiliates.

    July 21, 2014

  • SE wrestling practice 5 mlh.jpg Herndon leaving Raiders to coach at Calhoun; new coach named at SE Whitfield

    Michael Herndon’s successful three-year run as Southeast Whitfield High School’s wrestling coach has come to an end.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Hipp makes cut at qualifying tourney

    Chatsworth golfer Colby Hipp earned the chance to play on today in a U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament at Reynolds Plantation-Great Waters in Eatonton.

    July 21, 2014

  • 7on7 day 2 '14 17 mlh.jpg Devin Golden: Friday signals gridiron days’ official start

    Seven-on-seven football was a good placeholder, but it’s time to begin talking about the real thing.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • CCAC-B&W.jpg CCAC has strong showing at 14-and-under state meet

    The Carpet Capital Aquatics Club had 16 club records broken in a 12th-place finish at the 2014 Georgia 14-and-under Long Course State Championship meet Saturday at Georgia Tech’s swimming facility.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loran Smith: Golf now in era of McIlroy after Open

    Royal & Ancient officials, under whose auspices the Open championship is conducted each year, were blessed with a sun-kissed start of the final round of the 143rd playing of this historic event.

    July 21, 2014

  • Motocross kid 6 mlh.jpg Dirt, gas and guts

    Lucas Amos is like a lot of other 6-year-olds who will be going into first grade at Tunnel Hill Elementary this school year.
    He likes to play the video game sensation Minecraft, building different structures and fending off zombies when the sun goes down. He likes to spend time with his grandparents, traveling around the Southeast with them most every weekend.
    And he likes to play in the dirt.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo