Decatur High School Varsity Volleyball team wins regional championshipThe Decatur Volleyball team celebrates with the region trophy after beating Chamblee 3-0. Photo by Keson Graham (@kesonthedhspics on Instagram)
By David McFarland, contributor
Decatur, GA — The Decatur High School Varsity Volleyball team is a region champion.
The Bulldogs won the 5A Area 4 title after a win over longtime rivals Chamblee in the region tournament final on Thursday, Oct. 12. Decatur won 3 sets to Chamblee’s 0 in a best-of-five series, edging out the number 1 seed and reigning champions 26-24, 25-20, and 25-20 in a tightly-contested match.
“The final game versus Chamblee was one of the most competitive games we have played this season,” said senior Clara Drake. “They are our rivals, so beating them after many years was such an amazing feeling!”
Head Coach Miriam Denard, meanwhile, described the region final as “decisive.”
“Our team played aggressively, but they also followed our game plan and executed. They defended tough, made adjustments, fought for every point, and really played together as a team,” Denard said. “Our middles really stepped up in the final, and I can’t say enough about our defense. They were moving like a machine out there, and it was fun to watch!”
This victory was a long time coming, and all the more enjoyable because of it, according to senior and captain Madden Reagan. “We came into this season with our primary goal being winning the region championship, so it was amazing seeing everyone stick to this goal for so long. Seeing this hard work come to life was amazing, but nothing was sweeter than hoisting the championship trophy into the air.”
Reagan described the importance of Decatur’s dedication.
“You could see it in practice and games that we were constantly working toward the goal of being region champions. We really worked on refining our passing this season, so we could create a very aggressive attack from our front row which ultimately led to success on the court,” Reagan said. “There was a lot of drive from our team to win the region because it was something we had been working toward for years. As I looked around before the game I could tell no one was scared for this game but ready to get out onto the court and win.”
Decatur, who came into the tournament as the 2 seed, reached the final after beating Arabia Mountain 3-0 in the semifinals, its third straight win in October. In fact, the Bulldogs lost just once all season in regional play. That one defeat was to none other than Chamblee by a 2-1 set scoreline, even though the Bulldogs won more individual points on that night by 55 to 54. It’s clear that Decatur and Chamblee are more than just normal opponents, with their competition for the trophy going back to last season when the Bulldogs were runner-up to — you guessed it — Chamblee.
It would take a special performance to wrest the region trophy back into Decatur’s hands, but the Bulldogs weren’t daunted. Coach Denard described how her team rose to the occasion and then some on Thursday.
“Our team was vibing together, they were efficient, and they were having fun out there,” Denard said. “I said to one of my players during the third and final set of the championship that I was going to sit down and just let the girls go to work. They didn’t need my help at that point. So sitting back for a bit and watching them be leaders and be dominant was probably my favorite moment. There were also some pretty fun blocks from our front line, and our serving improved throughout—we had so many aces! These girls slayed, that’s all I can say!”
That’s been a common theme for the Bulldogs all year, en route to a 17W-8L overall record and now a region trophy.
“The key to our success in the region tournament was our offensive aggressiveness,” explained Coach Denard. “Throughout the season, we have grown so much defensively, so it was going to have to be our offense that really stayed aggressive and made it difficult for our opponents to defend us. We have strong front-line attackers already, so their ability to really stay aggressive with their attacks, swing hard at every ball, and aim to score with every touch really proved to be the difference maker this tournament.”
“We were also prepared this year. Our volunteer coach, Scott Reagan, really helped us with an awesome scouting report on our opponents so we had a game plan and the girls executed.”
Drake described another factor of Decatur’s success.
“We packed our schedule full of very competitive teams, which made for a tough season but in the end helped us prepare for the region tournament,” Drake said.
Decatur’s path to success hasn’t been without its twists and turns, however. Coach Denard said, “Our consistency has been the biggest obstacle. Can we play a game, from start to finish, at the intensity level that we require of our team? That’s been a question all season and has definitely gotten the best of us at times, especially against Midtown early in September. We took a pretty embarrassing loss on our home floor. The great thing about this team though is that they believe in themselves and they are willing to push each other. We saw Midtown again at the end of the season and played one of our best matches of the season and redeemed ourselves with a victory.”
Reagan, meanwhile, pointed out the earlier loss to Chamblee as Decatur’s biggest hiccup, albeit only in the short term. “It was a hard-fought game that consisted of some setbacks that were out of our control. However, I think the initial loss was only a motivator to put in the hard work to come back and win when it really mattered in the region championships.”
There’s still plenty left to play for, and Decatur is far from satisfied, as Reagan made clear. “Next up we have the state playoffs. Last year we only made it to the first round with a very early defeat. This year, we seek revenge and are looking to make it much farther.”
For Coach Denard, “The main goal is to take it one game at a time and play better every match. As well as we have been playing lately, we know collectively that we still have another level we can go to—which is exciting for us and scary for the rest of our opponents. The state tournament should be a fun ride for us, and we are looking forward to hosting the first-round match at Decatur next Wednesday!”
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