POWDER SPRINGS -- As soon as Mount Paran senior Sarah-Hayes Farley recorded her final kill, she turned from the near corner of the net towards her teammates and braced for impact.
Farley was soon surrounded by a mob of teammates and peers from the student section, and the Lady Eagles were officially state champions for the first time.
Mount Paran swept three-time defending champ Calvary Day 25-15, 26-24, 25-21 in the Class A/AA private-school final at McEachern’s Lovinggood Gym, completing its redemption tour after losing to the same team just a season before.
Farley led with a dominant performance, recording 17 kills, while Mount Paran (41-3) kept the downside of momentum swings short.
Calvary Day (29-5) did not boast quite the squad it did last season, but that did not matter to Mount Paran coach Selina Chancy, because the Lady Eagles were also testing themselves on the state’s biggest stage.
“We honestly – well, I honestly didn’t know if we’d make it back after last year,” Chancy said. “We lost our libero and setter from a year ago, so, coming into this season, I just expected us to have a good year and see how it goes. But the girls on this team kept saying they believed they’d make it back.
“We thought through so much this season — injuries, not ones that sideline you but just ones that bother you and keep you from being at your best. We had illness, family tragedies to overcome, so this is special.”
Mount Paran, which was swept in last year’s final, went up after a convincing first-set win, but Calvary Day bounced back, fighting through to the end of the second set with considerable momentum swings. The Lady Eagles’ defense looked impenetrable at times, but worrisome in others, and untimely hitting errors were a microcosm of some anxiety setting in.
Angel Ferary, a versatile beach volleyball player, showcased her unique combination of low-to-floor defense and powerful outside hitting for most of the match, despite her short stature. But when she was in a slump, Chancy brought in Catherine Ethridge to relieve Ferary of front-line duties and let her focus on keeping the ball up in the back line.
Ferary and her twin sister, Bella, dug the ball up all game, while Farley continued to hammer the ball.
Mount Paran bounced back from a 8-1 deficit to tie the second set, then tied it again at 18-all before Farley took over and delivered seven of her kills to put the Lady Eagles ahead 2-0.
The second set was the most tense moment of the match, but Chancy insisted she was never fazed.
“You know, at the beginning of the playoffs, we all sat down and talked about what our stresses were, what we were worried about as a team, wrote them down, talked them out, and then we just prayed,” Chancy said. “From there, you just kind of take the pressure off. No, I was never worried.”
Mount Paran also got five kills from Beth Bowman, four blocks from Hannah Pulley and three blocks from Jordan Hough.
Calvary Day was led with eight kills from Tynley Smeltzer, while Alana White had four kills and three blocks. Errors doomed the Lady Cavaliers in the end, as it committed a total of 27.
In the end, it was not the victory that shocked Chancy, but the way in which it was won. At the start of the match, Calvary Day looked stoic and focused, while Mount Paran appeared looser.
“Never did I think we’d take this match 3-0,” Chancy said. “I thought it would be four or five sets, but that’s just a testament to our team. We never let the pressure get to us, and we played as a team.”