By Brian Paglia
Eagle's Landing Christian's excitement level after a swift 25-9, 25-16, 25-11 victory over Sonoraville in the Class AA/A second round Tuesday was relatively reserved.
That was until Lady Chargers coach Jim Barlow told his team their next match, a second consecutive quarterfinals appearance, would be at home when the remaining teams are re-seeded in the state tournament.
Last season, the Lady Chargers (32-11) were on the road when they lost to Greater Atlanta Christian in the quarterfinals.
"That's big," Barlow said about hosting a quarterfinals match.
But to advance to the program's first semifinals, Barlow said ELCA must perform more consistently in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and serving -- than it did against Sonoraville.
Concerning how ELCA performed on offense, defense and in serving, Barlow was blunt in his assessment.
Defense: "Defense was average."
Serving: "Serving was really good."
While ELCA struggled on offense and defense -- Barlow said the Lady Chargers missed several offensive opportunities at middle net and were caught unprepared on defense at times -- the Lady Chargers' advantage in serving carried them. The Lady Phoenix (29-13) had just three aces, two of which came once ELCA held a 23-8 lead in the third and final game.
The Lady Chargers totaled 18 aces in all, led by 10 from Lauren Teknipp, who had a game-high 13 kills. Teknipp had consecutive aces in each game, including three straight aces early in the second game. Kodie Patterson had four aces, Mara Green and Rachel Loudermilk had three aces and Rachel Tolleson added one ace.
Teknipp and Emily White confounded Sonoraville with their powerful jumping serves. Teknipp's serves went longer. White's serves dropped in shorter.
The Lady Phoenix had trouble receiving both.
"When we play good, we're really good," Barlow said. "What we have to do is keep our bad stretches to a short period. We can beat anybody right now if we don't have those long stretches of bad play."
ELCA encountered only one poor stretch of play Tuesday during the second game. Leading 15-8 after a kill from Teknipp, Sonoraville kept itself within striking distance. The Lady Phoenix twice cut ELCA's lead to four -- at 17-13 when Green had a kill blocked, and 20-16 on a kill by Sonoraville junior Kailey Vaughn.
But the Lady Chargers rallied behind Teknipp. She had two straight kills and Green clinched the game with an ace.
"We could've played better," Patterson said. "We weren't in our best mental shape. We kind of played to the level of our opponent."
Barlow added: "We played well. We can play better, but I'm fairly happy with how we played."