The coaches around the state have sat up and taken notice as well.
Atlanta International, a winner of 10 of its last 11 matches, earned the volleyball program’s first state ranking, tying at No. 10 in Class A with Gordon Lee last week in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association poll.
More important to the Eagles (16-5), they are 4-0 in Area 5-A play and have an inside track to the No. 1 seed in the area tournament and the right to host two rounds of state playoff matches. Key league matches with Fellowship Christian (tied for first with a 4-0 record), King’s Ridge Christian and Pinecrest Academy are coming up next week.
Coach Gregg Albright led Atlanta International to a berth in the Sweet 16 of the Class A/AA playoffs a year ago, and he liked that his squad, led by setter Helen Recaborde, outside hitter Anna Benkeser and libero Alexandra Zdonczyk, wasn’t getting ahead of itself despite its early season success.
“These guys take it in stride,” he said. “It definitely builds confidence, but we’re trying to take it one game at a time. I don’t think you’ll ever see them look cocky. They can be down 24-22, and we get a few match points against us, but they hang in there. This group is special in that way. They’re very resilient.”
That being said, the Eagles know a special victory when they see one. Coming from one set down to beat Holy Innocents’ Sept. 4 (25-27, 25-18, 25-20) marked a huge victory for the program, especially given the lofty ranking the Golden Bears held at the time (No. 5) and their berth in last year’s state semifinals.
“We went into that game knowing that reputation, and now we beat that school that has that reputation,” Benkeser said. “Maybe we’ll start picking that up, too. It was one of those milestones. Last year when we beat Westminster that was another milestone and then Holy Innocents’ this year.”