WOODSTOCK — The pressure hasn’t seemed to affect Savannah Bray’s productivity, despite every opposing team knowing where Etowah’s main threat lies.
In a victory over Allatoona last Thursday night, the Etowah High School senior put herself in the Georgia high school history books when she finished a short rally with a finessed tip over two Allatoona defenders, the ball dropping in for an Etowah point. The tip was Bray’s 1,904th kill of her high school career and set the new state record for kills in a career.
“I’m very honored to get it,” Bray said. “I know it’s a really big achievement because there’s not that many girls who have ever reached that point. I didn’t really start looking at the numbers until after the season ended last year and saw I was pretty close to Gabby Gonzales (Walton High School 2018 graduate and 2018 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year). It’s just really cool.”
Bray’s record kill was one of touch, but the power she brings on the majority of her kills is anything but soft. With strength and precision, Bray routinely rises above the net and drives balls into her opponents’ court.
The confidence in her own ability is now self evident, but she said her attitude wasn’t always like that. She credits her coaches at the Roswell-based A5 Volleyball Club with helping her grow into a leader on the court.
“I was shy when I first started playing volleyball,” Bray said. “Coach Gabe (Aramian) and coach Suzanne (Fitzgerald) really helped me improve when I was younger. Coach Suzanne really helped me build my mental toughness and coach Gabe really helped me become more aggressive. He just brought it out of me.”
Offense isn’t Bray’s only talent. Her 2,001 career digs are almost as many as her now-state-record 2,019 kills. Etowah head coach Kim Robertson said Bray stands out, not only among her teammates, but among the best players in the state.
“She’s definitely head and shoulders above everyone on our team and I think everyone in Georgia,” Robertson said. “She’s the most fundamentally sound and hardest working young lady that I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. She’s our best passer too. She’ll be a four-year All-state player and I hope she makes All-American this year.”
Bray dedicated herself to volleyball and began playing with A5 when she was 10 years old and also followed in her older sister’s footsteps at Etowah. Simmie Bray, a 2012 Etowah graduate, went on to play college volleyball at USC Upstate and her picture hangs on the Wall of Fame in the school gym. Watching her little sister set a new state record didn’t come as a surprise according to Simmie.
“After she had been playing for a few years I thought she could be pretty legit, but of course I never told her that because I didn’t want it to get to her head” Simmie Bray said while laughing. “It was definitely exciting to see her break the record especially because she’s had to really put the team on her back a lot. I hope she sets the record really high so it will take a few years before anybody can reach it.”
Bray’s younger sister, Sydney Bray, is currently a freshman on the Etowah team playing alongside her older sister. Sydney has served as Savannah’s main setter for her senior season and said she’s learned a lot from watching her older sister.
“I think it’s cool to just be related to her honestly,” Sydney Bray said. “She helps me after every point with little things here and there. It definitely makes me a better player and makes me want to shoot to maybe break that record one day.”
Etowah (24-7, 2-2) is currently the No. 3-ranked team in Class AAAAAAA and is coming off a victory at the Georgia Challenge Volleyball Tournament this past weekend where the team did not drop a single set. Bray said she and the team have been driven by last season’s Elite Eight defeat to Milton and have been using a motto to drive themselves this season.
“Unfinished business,” Bray said. “Every single game, ever point and set. Getting to that state championship and hopefully bringing home a win to Etowah, that’s the goal. We’re picking up our conditioning now and trying to improve because we don’t want to go out like we did last year.”
Saying Region 4AAAAAAA is competitive is an understatement, according to Bray. The two teams above Etowah in the state rankings, Walton and Lassiter, are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, and Bray added No. 6-ranked Roswell is very good this year too. Etowah will host Cherokee, the No. 9-ranked team in the state and fellow Region 4AAAAAAA member, at 5:30 p.m on Tuesday.
Bray has 449 kills so far this season with a kill percentage of 53.9 and a .448 hitting percentage. Beyond the stats her younger sister has been able to compile, Simmie Bray said Savannah’s ability to lead is what impresses her the most.
“That’s take a lot to carry the team,” Simmie Bray said. “To help your teammates get better and then go out and win games, it can be a lot. And then to set a record like that, I don’t think just anybody could do that. I think it takes a special person.”