Since its inception in 2009 through 2012, the Johns Creek volleyball program averaged more than 39 wins per season and made an appearance in the semifinals of the state playoffs last year before falling to Harrison.
This year, the Gladiators started 2-4 but rebounded by reeling off 12 consecutive victories through Aug. 29, dropping only two sets during the entire run.
“We had to figure out some things defensively and our passing in the back row,” said Johns Creek head coach Beth Stephens, who has been with the program since the beginning.
The offensive attack has been paced by senior outside hitter Annika Olsen, who leads the team in kills with 123 and was named to the All-State team last season. She will attend Georgia Tech next fall. “Annika is the heart and soul of our team,” Stephens said. “She’s the best female athlete that I’ve ever coached and does everything for us all over the court.”
The Gladiators have also received support from senior Isabel Fabacher, who leads the team in blocks (26) and is second in kills (75). “Isabel joined our program in January has been a pleasant surprise for us using her 6’2’’ height advantage,” Stephens said. “She really knows the game.”
Other contributors include sophomore Mikaela Gauthreaux who leads the team in aces with 22, junior Olivia Durrence’s 71 kills, which is third on the team and the leader in digs, sophomore Madeline Savage.
The quick rise of the Gladiators from new program to one of the top teams in the entire state doesn’t surprise the coaching staff. “We were able to pull kids from a pool that were already attending excellent programs such as Chattahoochee and Northview,” said Stephens. “Also, we have some great club volleyball programs in this area so the sport is in the girls’ blood.”
The culmination for the program’s growth would be a state championship which has proved difficult to achieve for the Gladiators but the team is optimistic that this may be the season. “We have a team that gets along on and off the court and is continuing to establish trust in each other.”
Johns Creek will return to action on Thursday in home matches against St. Pius X and East Coweta.