One could say that Mount Paran Christian had a long offseason following a disappointing state championship loss to Calvary Day, where nerves may have prevented the Lady Eagles from playing their best.
All that coach Selina Chancy and the nine players returning from that squad focused on was getting the job done in 2018.
Having graduated just two seniors, Chancy had the talent to make it happen with hitters Sarah-Hayes Farley, Beth Bowman and Jordan Hough leading the charge.
As many predicted, Mount Paran returned to the state playoffs by breezing through the Area 6A/AA tournament with straight-set wins over Cobb County rivals Mount Bethel Christian, Walker and North Cobb Christian.
After dropping just one set in their first four playoff wins over George Walton, Athens Academy, Holy Innocents’ and Hebron Christian, the Lady Eagles were back in the state championship, and Calvary Day was again waiting on them.
In a rematch with three-time defending state champion Calvary Day, which also lost two seniors from last year, it was Mount Paran that proved to be the superior team, winning 25-15, 26-24, 25-21 inside McEachern’s Lovinggood Gym.
“It’s like a dream come true. It’s really cool,” said Chancy, the 2018 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Volleyball Coach of the Year. “We just had our banquet last week and I was telling them that I was going back and looking at some of the PowerPoints that I make through the banquet from my first few seasons, and I was like, ‘Alright, we’re going to get a little better. We’re getting closer,’ and the fact that we are actually here, it’s awesome. I’m so happy it happened with this group of girls.”
Not only did Mount Paran win its first state title, it won the Cobb County title as well, beating eventual Class AAAAAA state champion Pope and runner-up Allatoona in bracket play.
In order to have success this season, Chancy had to groom a new setter to replace Jillian Tucker. Junior Bella Ferary was chosen to return to the position after being away three years. Mount Paran also needed a new libero to replace Sarah Armstrong, and it found one in junior Renee Dockins.
“I was like, ‘Girls, we could be really good again, but we might not be the same (team),’” Chancy said. “But the girls had the mentality from the beginning that we were going back (to the state finals) and winning it.”
With Chancy at the reins, Mount Paran excelled at starting fast and building big leads. In the Lady Eagles’ first four playoff matches, their biggest concern was beating Hebron Christian in the state semifinals, but a quick start by Mount Paran allowed it to sweep into a second-straight final.
In attempt to avenge last year’s loss to Calvary Day, the Lady Eagles started fast in both the first and third sets, winning them handily. The second set was the bigger struggle as Mount Paran rallied from eight points down on two different occasions to win.
“I called timeout and reminded them that they needed to go back to the basics,” Chancy said. “Passing and serving are the things we can control, and they did a phenomenal job of taking a deep breath and going back to that. In the third set, we got back into our groove.”