Valwood Volleyball claims its first state championship

Submitted Photo | Tyler Carson Valwood volleyball poses together after securing its first state championship since the program began in 2013. 

The GISA AAA State Volleyball tournament was hosted at Creekside Christian Academy over the weekend. On Saturday, the Valwood Valiants claimed their first State Title since the inception of the program in 2013.  In 2018, the Valiants came close by bringing home the state runner-up trophy. 

This year it was obvious the Valiants wanted to prove they were the real deal. With a theme of Currahee inspired by the 101st Airborne, the Valiants went into the season rallying around the Band of Brothers’ example of determination, pursuit of excellence, and comradery.  

The Valiants faced three opponents in two days and only dropped one set the entire tournament.  Hitting on all cylinders, Valwood allowed opponents to score an average of 17 points per set. Against the 8th ranked Atlanta Girls School (25-12, 25-11, 25-14), three-time All State setter, Kennedy Kimbro distributed the ball evenly with Senior Makayla Yates and Junior Bailee Musgrove each earning 6 kills, followed closely by Juniors Aiyana Matchett and Ellie Griner with 5 kills apiece and Freshman Annabelle Kerrigan with 4 kills. 

Combined, setters Kennedy Kimbro and Anna Alvarado gave 27 assists. The final blow to close out the game was a well-placed ball by Senior Charlotte Griner. On Saturday, the Valiants found themselves up against the host school, Creekside Christian Academy. With powerful offense led once again by Bailee Musgrove (11 kills), the Valiants knocked out Creekside in straight sets (25-11, 25-17, 25-17). 

For the Championship game, Valwood faced Dominion Christian, one of the few teams to hand Valwood a loss early in the season. “We knew Dominion Christian was going to be a formidable opponent, but this was the scenario we prepared for all season,” reported Coach Val Gallahan. 

Against a highly talented Dominion Christian team, Valwood won a battle in 4 sets (25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22) that also saw two different weather game delays due to tornado warnings. 

“Prior to the Championship match, the team reflected on Bryson DeChambeau’s recent US Open victory. He explained that we wouldn’t let himself think about anything beyond the hole he was currently playing. We decided that no matter how the game was going, we weren’t going to get ahead of ourselves. As a team, we focused on giving our best effort for every ball being played and only allowed ourselves to concentrate on the current point.” 

In the fourth set, with the score tied 21-21, Ellie Griner earned two consecutive kills to give the Valiants a 23-21 lead. Senior Kennedy Kimbro confidently served a jump float ace advancing the Valiants to match point. After Dominion scored from a well-placed ball, Kennedy Kimbro fed Ellie Griner, and once again Griner delivered. The Valwood Valiants entire team contributed to the success on the court. 

Two-time All State outside hitter, Makayla Yates racked up 11 kills and 11 digs.  Combined, the two middle blockers, Freshman Caylee Collins and Junior Aiyana Matchett earned 7 points from kills and 13 points from blocks. Of the balls that weren’t blocked, Valwood’s defense refused to let many drop. Junior libero Marleigh Carson, Makayla Yates, and Bailee Musgrove each tallied digs in the double digits.  

“In the midst of COVID-19, we are so thankful to have the opportunity to play. Our team prayed diligently throughout the season, and we praise God for seeing us through.”   

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