By REID TUCKER
South Walton’s four-set win against arch-rival Freeport was closer than either volleyball team would have liked, with the Lady Seahawks just edging the Lady Bulldogs to claim victory.
The Seahawks posted wins of 26-24, 25-20 and 25-21 on the night of Thursday, Sept. 13, while they fell by a nine-point spread in the third set, which Freeport convincingly won 25-16.
The Lady Seahawks and Lady Bulldogs were closest in the first set, with South Walton leading by no more than one throughout the game. Freeport did not manage to tie the game, but with Charity Head stepping up as the main attacker to drill hits into a vulnerable South Walton back row, they kept close enough to force a 25-24 game point. The Seahawks’ Maddison Leigh-Boys scored a service ace off the arm of an opposing back row player.
The second set was close, but not quite as close as the first, as Freeport took an early 2-0 lead before pressure from South Walton’s Rafae Ledo-Massey tied the game. However, the Bulldogs went on a 10-5 scoring run to reach their high-water mark of the set before the Seahawks retaliated in force with a 6-zip run of their own to take the lead by one point at 13-12. Freeport managed to tie the game at 14, the combination of Kati Trejo’s serving, Jacey Geater’s blocks, and out of bounds hits from the Bulldogs put South Walton ahead and then gave over the win at 25-20.
Freeport fairly dominated the third set, in which South Walton seemed to wilt somewhat, the Bulldogs surging ahead 7-2 before the Seahawks clamored back to an 8-all tie. Long volleys were in store as both teams tired, though it was Freeport who got the best of it, rising to 23-13 thanks to strokes from deep in the back row by Laura Hayhurst. Freeport’s Ashlyn Davis crushed a service ace to give Freeport the win two points later, though South Walton scored three more times in the interim.
The fourth and final set was another chess game with an early tie, though the Seahawks looked to drop off again, as they had at the start of the third set. However, South Walton pulled ahead by two points at 9-7 and hung on to the lead until being tied up by Freeport at 12-12, then 17-17, then 18-18. Freeport’s leading attackers, Head and Kennedi Bates, were hard at work spiking on the front row, but Trejo and Geater were ever-present threats who put down several kills to give South Walton a 23-20 edge.
The Bulldogs could not recover in time when Hayhurst shanked a serve return out of bounds, enabling the Seahawks to take their third straight district win.
With the win at Freeport, South Walton is the current district leader with a 3-0 District 2-A record, having already beaten league foes Chipley at home and Bozeman on the road. The Bulldogs fell to 6-4 overall and 2-2 in district play, with wins over Bozeman and Holmes County on the road and losses to Chipley and South Walton at home.
Leaders on the night for South Walton were Geater, who had seven kills and two blocks, Sarah McManus, with 16 assists, Trejo, who led with seven aces, and Katie Logan, who was the leading serve returner with 15 digs. Freeport’s top players were Head, with 13 kills and three aces, while Bates had 10 plus 11 digs and five aces. Freeport libero Rebecca Landreth had 11 digs and Davis had two blocks and three aces.