The results were the same for the Spartans, however, as they earned their eighth consecutive trip to the state playoffs.
North Springs’ postseason run came to an early end as it lost a tough five-set battle to Apalachee 25-20, 25-21, 22-25, 23-25, 15-9 in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs last Tuesday.
It was the second five-set match in a row for the Spartans, who beat Richmond Hill in the first round Oct. 17.
“The first match, they played hard and they came together,” Stafford said. “They wanted it really badly as a team. Playing in the second match, we made errors and unfortunately, the other team capitalized on those errors.”
Nevertheless, it was a successful season for a North Springs (28-15) team that overcame a number of challenges, including injuries as well as adjusting to a new coach.
“We have been able to overcome everything that has been thrown at them and they still have been able to overcome them,” Stafford said. “We’ve had our ups and downs. When something goes wrong, they’ve been able to step it up or pick it up. Unfortunately, losing those players was a big blow to the team, but the girls who may have not seen a lot of playing time stepped up. They worked really hard at practice and they made some key contributions to the team and did something for the team to make up for the loss.”
Despite the lack of stability at the coaching position, North Springs has still been able to maintain a consistent level of success over the last few years.
The Spartans have made it to the postseason every season since 2006 and have advanced to the second round three of the last four years.
Stafford said her players bought into the system that she and the rest of the new coaching staff brought with them.
“They have the skills, obviously,” she said. “Thankfully, they were all willing to listen to us, knowing that the had that many different coaches. We were kind of worried that it would be, ‘Oh, it’s just another new coach, no big deal. We don’t need to listen. We’ve already done that,’ but, they’re a respectful team. They’ve got something special about them. The girls we put on the court, all the girls – including the JV and the whole program – they were something special this year.”
Senior Katelyn Green (517 assists, 212 digs, 97 kills), an Emory commitment, played a big role in North Springs’ success at both setter and outside hitter, while junior outside hitter Zahria Green (337 kills, 325 digs, 20 aces), senior middle hitter and Syracuse commitment Leah Levert (247 kills, 30 solo blocks, 57 block assists) and junior outside hitter Hana Barhoumi were the other key players for the Spartans.
Stafford said she is looking forward to continuing to build on the Spartans’ success next year.
“I’m excited to see what happens next season,” she said. “We’re going to have a lot of girls play club volleyball to keep working on their skills, which is very exciting. A lot of them, this was their first year playing, so I’m excited to see what happens. Each year is going to be a different team and it won’t be the same year after year and it’s going to be interesting to see how the team is different from this year’s team.”