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Sand Rock tunes up for Cherokee County Volleyball Tournament with sweep of Cherokee County

Sand Rock’s Katelyn StClair, left, stretches for a ball against Cherokee County on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

SAND ROCK – Coming into the 2022 volleyball season, the Sand Rock Lady Wildcats had some question marks following the departure of several key players.

But now, this Sand Rock team is beginning to develop its chemistry, and it’s just in time for Saturday’s Cherokee County Tournament.

On Monday, the Lady Wildcats wasted little time dispensing with Cherokee County in a best-of-five match. They swept the Lady Warriors 25-20, 25-20, 25-10 to improve to 16-5 on the season.

“I thought they played solid and in control,” Sand Rock coach Lisa Bates said. “They didn’t let them get on big, long runs. I thought we did a good job of being aggressive swinging and getting in lots of swings. I felt like we were aggressive getting the ball set up and being offensive-minded. I thought we passed pretty solidly off the serve. I was pleased. There weren’t big moments of letdown.”

As Bates said, Sand Rock was in control most of the match. Cherokee County (16-15) held an early 7-3 advantage in the first set before the Lady Wildcats settled in. They went on a 15-6 run to take an 18-13 lead, forcing Lady Warrior coach Tiffany Rieger to call a timeout.

Following the break in action, Cherokee County reeled off four straight points to cut Sand Rock’s lead to a point at 18-17, but the Lady Wildcats closed out the set on a 7-3 run to take a 1-0 edge in the match.

In the second set, Sand Rock jumped out to a 17-7 lead and held off the Lady Warriors late to take a 2-0 lead. In the third set, the Lady Wildcats surged out to a 15-2 advantage and cruised to earn the set and the match.

Katelyn StClair led Sand Rock with 12 kills and 15 digs. Chloe Stephens posted 25 digs. Rylin StClair added 25 assists and two aces. Jacey Stephens contributed eight kills and two blocks. Jadyn Foster collected eight kills, 10 digs and two blocks. Zoey Handy finished with five kills.

While Sand Rock seems to be surging at the right time, it seems quite the opposite for the Lady Warriors.

“We started out the season being consistent and having our rhythm, but lately, the last three or so weeks, we haven’t clicked like we were,” Rieger said. “Our passing has been off. Our serve-receive passing has been off. Our timing has been off. We haven’t been covering the middle of the floor as well as we did to start with. I know part of that still comes with being a young team. We still have four freshmen on the floor, but it’s still kind of frustrating because we know we can play better. This is not the time of the year you want to be doing that.”

Ella Garmany led the Lady Warriors with nine kills, eight digs, an ace and an assist. Ellisan Givens posted 20 digs. Nevaeh Gaidurgis added five kills and two digs. Raegan Garmany came away with three kills and two digs. Vivian Connell contributed three kills, a dig and an assist. Libby Curry had five digs, a kill and an ace. Macy Lea finished with 16 assists, four digs and an ace.

“Our libero, Ellisan Givens played lights out tonight. She was all over the place with 20 digs, a great serve-receive, but it takes six people on the floor. You can’t do it with just one,” Rieger said. “We just didn’t have any energy or intensity tonight, which kind of surprised me.”

The Cherokee County Tournament bracket will be released on Wednesday, with matches beginning at 9 a.m. Gaylesville is this year’s host.

“We needed to actually see each other before we turned in the seeding,” Bates said. “I hope this puts us in a good position for Saturday and I hope we show up. I don’t like it being the day after homecoming, but it is what it is.”

“We’ve split with Spring Garden this year, so we kind of know what to expect from them. Sand Rock is always solid, but it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the floor. We’ve got to focus on what we’re doing, and that’s our issue,” Rieger said. “If we’re playing our game, the game that I’ve seen us play, we have a really good chance of winning the county tournament. When we don’t, it’s not fun to watch.”

Cherokee County’s Vivian Connell, right, attempts to block a ball off a swing from Sand Rock’s Jacey Stephens during their volleyball match on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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