Southeast Whitfield plays best-of-three high school volleyball matches in Georgia but made the trip from Dalton to Baylor on Tuesday for a best-of-five match. As it turned out, Baylor was the best in three.
The Lady Red Raiders swept Southeast 25-17, 25-22, 25-13 in the battle of state powers.
Baylor has five returning starters from last year's Division II-AA state-runner-up team. Southeast is coming off a season in which it advanced to the GHSA Class AAA round of 16. After reclassification, the Dalton school is rated No. 4 in Class AAAA in the Georgia Prep Country Website's preseason top-10 coaches' poll.
"Our region isn't as strong, so we like to come up and play as many good teams as we can," Southeast coach Jake Dickey said. "And Baylor's a really good team. They get you down and keep you down."
That was the case in the third game especially, when the hosts took the lead for good at 4-3. But the first two sets were tight throughout with Baylor managing to forge ahead down the stretch in both.
Baylor led the first set 15-13, then went on a run of five consecutive points behind Haven Bethune's serve. The second set score jumped from 19-19 to 24-20.
"We passed very well," Baylor coach Sarah Lail said. "When you have that in your attack, the whole offense works well. I thought we communicated and were really flowing together as a team. After all the hard work we've put into practice, it was nice to see it come together."
Senior Rachel Travis registered Baylor's first and last points of the match with kills and had 13 in between. She also contributed nine digs and two aces.
"She was really being smart with her shot-making, keeping the defense on their toes," Lail said. "It was good to see her lead the team vocally on the court, too. She can do it all."
Madeline Rose added seven kills and led Baylor with four aces. Macall Nabors and Megan Kaylor matched Travis with nine digs, and Kaylor also had 22 assists.
Megan Collins paced Southeast (2-1) with eight kills, but no other Lady Raider had more than two.
"This was our first big game of the season," Dickey said. "Yesterday I was tossing free balls in practice and I was getting smashed. Today we were not swinging at it like that. We've got to learn to translate that into big games."
Collins also led Southeast with 20 digs, and Hannah Graham set 12 assists.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.