Northwest Whitfield's Kaley Long (28), backed by teammates MaLane Kyer (4) and Rachel Thurman (14), spikes the ball towards Heritage's Ariana Camp during their prep volleyball match at Northwest Whitfield High School on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Tunnel Hill, Ga.

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Volleyball Lady Bruins impressive in 2-0 region start

TUNNEL HILL Ga. — Three teams opened their GHSA Region 6-AAAA volleyball seasons Tuesday at Northwest Whitfield, and the host Lady Bruins did nothing to change anyone's mind about them being the preseason favorites to win the league's regular season.

Northwest swept Heritage and Southeast Whitfield 2-0 each. Set scores against Heritage's Generals were 25-16, 25-13. Set scores against the Lady Raiders were 25-5, 25-8.

Heritage defeated Southeast 2-0 by set scores of 25-17, 25-10.

The Generals have been one of the steadiest winning programs in northwest Georgia in recent years and were believed to be perhaps the Lady Bruins' toughest region competition. They still could be come tournament time. But Tuesday they proved to be no match for Northwest (19-2, 2-0).

"We're still trying to get our lineup set and get people in the right positions, that sort of thing," Heritage coach Kari Cooper said. "We're trying to find out what's going to work best for us."


Heritage (13-4, 1-1) took a 2-0 lead at the outset of the opening match, but the Lady Bruins answered with five consecutive points that included Holly Heath's three aces in the match. Northwest built the lead as high as 18-7.

The Generals took a 6-1 lead in the second set, only to see the Lady Bruins catch them at 7 and pass them at 8. Heritage never led again but was within 15-12 before Northwest pulled away with its second 8-0 run of the match.

"We've been working a lot in practice on consistency," Northwest coach Kelsey Ikerd said. "That's with all our hitters, all our passers. We're trying to take advantage of all the skills everyone has."

Cooper was convinced that the Lady Bruins did that.

"They're just a good all-around team," she said. "On offense they can hit the ball. Defensively they can block. They also have the attitude that they're not going to let anything hit the floor."

Northwest relies on standout hitter Heath, who had a team-high 16 kills in the two matches. But Kaley Long had 15 kills, totaled five blocks and served three aces in each match.

"She has put in so much work in the offseason," Ikerd said of Long. "She's not only worked on her hitting, but we've starting serving her a lot, too. And she's not just serving to get the ball over, she's serving to score points. She's our leading blocker, but I think she's also third in aces. She's not just a threat on the net."

Shelby Gordon led the Lady Bruins with nine digs against Heritage. Heath had eight against the Generals and a team-high nine against Southeast. MaLane Kyer totaled 35 assists for Northwest on the day.

Heritage's Kali Brown had three kills and seven digs against Northwest and seven kills and two aces against Southeast. Maggie Britto had 10 assists and three aces in the Generals' win.

Contact Kelley Smiddie at or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.