Rhana Mitchell goes for the kill.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
The Lady Chiefs of McIntosh High School brought home another trophy Friday night, the newest one in volleyball. The unforgettable win was particularly sweet and came several years after their first volleyball title, both under head coach Wendy Weaver. Why sweet? The team has come so close in previous years, but fell just short of total victory—making it to the Final Four two years ago and Finals last year only to lose to cross-county rival Whitewater.
Ranked number one throughout the 2013 season, this victory was no surprise to anyone who saw them play this year, except perhaps, Sequoyah’s Lady Chiefs. Meeting for the first time Friday evening at Marietta High School for the AAAAA finals, the swagger in Sequoya’s players and fans might have led many to believe they could not be beaten by a school from—Where?!? (“What school is this again? McIntosh?? Where is that at??”) It was a surprising question to be asked, (but it was by many in the crowd) since McIntosh’s win represents the eighth volleyball championship brought home by a Fayette County high school team since 2004. Sure there are private schools who boast multiple titles, but considering Fayette County schools are public, quite a feat, all in all.
One of the finest volleyball strategists and coaches in the state, Chiefs Coach Wendy Weaver has been grooming her players for this moment all season long and had this to say after the win. “The key to our season was consistent, steady improvement. More than probably any other team I have coached, this team played their finest ball during the semifinals and tonight, peaking at just the right time. It was a sweet win for especially my seniors, who have come close in years past, but finally realized a dream this year.”
The focus definitely came in handy, since Sequoya’s student section was loud, well-represented and did their best to vocally rattle McIntosh. Of course, the best way to silence a raucous crowd is to win, and win big, which McIntosh did in set one 25-12. Sequoyah looked stunned by such audacity by the team from—where, again??
Set two was another McIntosh-dominated game, with only a brief challenge by Sequoyah who tied it at point 12, only to see McIntosh put the game out of reach as they won 25-18.
During set three, Chattahoochee High fans arrived to support their team playing for the AAAAAA championship game following the AAAAA game, and joined in cheering for Sequoyah. During the set, Sequoyah finally showed why they made it to Finals, leading most of the game and pulling off the win 25-21.
Set four opened close and stayed that way until point eight, when senior Mollie Michel put on her after-burners and became a hitting and blocking force whose five kills and one block in a matter of eight points took the game out of the grasp of Sequoyah and placed the match comfortably in the hands of McIntosh who won 25-14.
After the win, the Lady Chiefs held a team prayer on the court and then respectfully watched the trophy presentation to second place Sequoyah before being presented with their own. A host of players had a hand in the Chiefs victory and deserve recognition, beginning with seniors Rhana Mitchell (20 kills, one block) her twin sister Rhegan Mitchell (10 kills, three blocks, one ace, 27 assists), Michel (10 kills, three blocks one ace, 24 assists), Miara Bryant (two kills, seven blocks), Abbi Schelkopf (eight kills, two blocks, two aces) and Kassandra Robert (34 digs), junior Abbie Duke (two kills, four blocks) and sophomore Zoey Labonte (two blocks).
Talking about the match afterward, Michel said, “We wanted to win this in four sets, avoiding a fifth, if possible. So I changed my mindset and went all out [in the fourth set] for the team.”
Rhegan Mitchell added, “We realized we had to play our game and keep the focus on us to be triumphant."
Finally senior Miara Bryant said, “Blocking was my main focus and I wanted to make my last game of volleyball the best one ever.” She definitely succeeded.
McIntosh Who?? That would be the McIntosh Chiefs. It will likely be a long, long time before the Sequoyah Chiefs forget the name of the team who dominated them for the AAAAA state volleyball title in 2013. The McIntosh Chiefs from Fayette County reign supreme.