HAHIRA –– In Thursday night’s volleyball matchup between the Valwood Valiants and Valdosta Wildcats, Valwood swept the Wildcats three sets to none.
Valdosta tried to mount a comeback in the third set, but the Valwood Valiants slammed the door on them. Down 24-19, Valwood answered with a momentum shifting six-point run to take the lead 25-24.
At this point Valwood’s student section was going berserk and fans were on their feet. The final point of the match was the longest and most intense rally of the game, both teams were on edge and Valwood pulled it off in the end, winning it 26-24.
“(Coach Gallahan) called a timeout and she said, ‘mental toughness, that’s all, if you overcome that you can overcome anything’ so I feel like we overcame that as a team tonight,” said setter Kennedy Kimbro.
Valwood’s displayed their mental toughness in that final set. Valwood was already up two sets and still didn’t want to give Valdosta anything. The Valiants locked in on overcoming the 24-19 deficit and didn’t allow Valdosta to get another point.
Valwood Head Coach Val Gallahan has emphasized mental toughness to her team since their preseason tournament they had earlier in August, and saw it all come full circle against Valdosta
“We had a long conversation about our mental toughness,” said Coach Gallahan. “It was our ability to do the little things right and to not make mistakes... We knew that Valdosta was highly skilled, so we said we just have to do the little things right and make sure we’re not the ones making mistakes and ending plays, so I was so proud to see that.”
This game meant a lot for both teams, and it showed in the emotions after the game. The Valiants were all smiles and hugs and the Wildcats couldn’t help but to be visually upset that their private school rival beat them 3 sets to 0.
The Valwood and Valdosta rivalry is a classic private vs public school matchup. Valwood’s home crowd showed the importance of this game as their side of the gym was almost filled before the match started.
Both school’s student sections were in attendance too, heckling each other back and forth. But Valwood’s students really showed their energy and chanted, yelled, and screamed during the entire match.
“They’re so awesome,” said head coach Val Gallahan. “They started doing this a year or two ago and it has made all the difference. Our girls are so excited to have people to play for, I try to tell them all the time how thankful we are, I mean this is a better atmosphere than we had when I played at VSU.”
For Valwood Kennedy Kimbro ended the night with nine digs and 25 assists, the game high. Bailee Musgrove had great game with nine kills, three aces, and three blocks and Makayla Yates finished with eight kills and an ace.
Valdosta’s Kemari Smith stood out for the Wildcats with 12 blocks, seven kills and an ace. Stanaisha Wright had five kills, six blocks, and Lilly Parrish showed off her defense and ended with 17 digs.
The Wildcats will get a shot at redemption with Valwood when they play them again on Oct. 1.