Earlier this season, miffed after what she perceived as a poor performance, Lee County Yellow Jackets volleyball coach Cindy Kelly waited until the gym was empty and fired up an impromptu practice — immediately following the game.
And at the tail end of the season, after meeting with the league’s coaches to determine the Tri-8 Conference’s seeds for the upcoming state playoffs, Kelly was given the option of just taking the No. 3 seed or playing Green Hope for the right to the No. 2 seed, which the teams had tied for after splitting the regular season series.
To the surprise of no one, Kelly chose to play it off, and the teams met on a neutral court. The Jackets lost, but the message was sent, just as it had been earlier when Kelly had decided that her team’s day wasn’t over just because a game had been played:
If you want something, you’re going to have to earn it.
On Tuesday night, the Jackets (18-6) scorched the Cap 7’s top-seeded team, Enloe (20-4), on its home court in four sets. Like it has been when they’ve played their best during the season, the Jackets’ offensive attack came from everywhere, from 6-foot-3 college prospect Brittany Blackman to Ebony Murchison to Haley Phillips. Kelly trumpeted her team’s ability to adjust to its opponent’s tendencies on the fly and was proud of the effort it took to advance past the second round of the state tournament.
The Jackets will now have to travel again to play another league heavyweight, Chapel Hill, the No. 2 seed out of the Pac 6. And though Chapel Hill struggled to get past Lee County’s fellow league foe and Tri-8 Conference fifth seed Athens Drive in five sets on Tuesday, the Jackets know they have a fierce battle ahead of them.
The Jackets may not win and advance to the East Region semifinals. But they will be prepared and will give maximum effort.
Kelly will make sure of it.