Heading into Walton’s gym as the heavy underdog, the North Cobb Lady Warriors volleyball team dismantled the Lady Raiders in four sets en route to an Elite Eight appearance.
“We had as many as five hitters across the front row and that gave us a good chance to win,” head coach James Auld said.
North Cobb ended the Lady Raider’s four-year championship reign. This means the Raiders will not be in the championship for the first time since 2009. Auld made the focus of his plan to stop Walton’s powerful outside hitters, and the Warriors executed their outside, middle, and right side blocking with tremendous concentration and demeanor.
In the fourth set, the momentum took a swing in favor of Walton.
Walton’s outside hitters continued to take advantage of the open back corners. The Lady Raiders led 9-4 when Auld took his first timeout. Something Auld said in the huddle clicked, and NC looked determined to finish off their opponents. On the ensuing point, sophomore defensive specialist Katelynn Riner started a serving streak that would put the Warriors ahead until the waning moments. Riner’s serving streak featured zippy and diving serves that threw the Lady Raiders off of their serve receive passing.
Senior outside hitter Abby Miller, who tallied 11 kills, tied the game at 10 on a twisting ball that landed on a wide-open right side of the court. After the tie, the Warriors extended their lead to 13-11. After that, the score differential never exceeded two, and the Lady Raiders took the lead once again at 21-20. Sophomore middle Jenna Woodruff answered Walton’s hitters with a few kills of her own, striking down two straight kills for the lead.
Senior libero Christina Matacotta led the way in serving as she has done throughout the season, taking the Warriors all the way to match point. The Warriors held the lead at 24-21 when the Lady Raiders began to inch back. Two kills and an ace tied the game at 24-24. Back and forth high octane kills and digs sums up the final extra points. But one decisive play by Miller won the clinching set for the Warriors. A free ball by Walton came down close to the net as Miller rose up to kill the ball to an open left side. North Cobb and its supporting fan section all stormed the court with excitement as they defeated the Walton raiders 3-1.
“Winning against Walton was intense, exciting, and kind of scary at the same time. It was an incredible experience to finally bring down the four-year champs,” Miller said.
After the Lady Warriors dominated in the first two sets, the Lady Raiders contemplated ways to beat NC’s precision blocking. Although the Warriors held their position on the block in the third set, rough passing and several setting errors plagued them. This aided Walton in their third set surge, propelling them to a 25-12 win.
Matacotta opened the first set with two aces, junior setter Taylor Parrish and junior middle Lizzy Daniel held Walton’s best hitter in check by swatting her kills every chance she had, and the Lady Warriors jumped to a 12-8 lead before Walton signaled a timeout.
Parrish, who tallied 45 assists on the day, added a line drive kill to the back left corner, which worsened the Lady Raiders deficit. While NC led the entire way, Walton got as close as 19-18 when Auld called a timeout. The Warriors careened ahead 20-18, and Miller served baseline until the match point. Senior outside hitter Savanna Gonzales finished Walton’s chance of a comeback when she struck a ball down the middle off the court, landing directly in front of the digger’s hands. Gonzales finished with 17 kills, and the Lady Warriors won the first set 25-21.
NC prevailed in the first set and looked to sustain their success through the second. A quick, powerful offense fueled by senior right side hitter Simone Maxwell who finished with eight kills, Woodruff with eight, and Daniel’s with seven. This spectacular Warrior surge leaped them out to a 6-3 lead when Walton called a timeout. Walton called their second timeout after Woodruff blocked Walton’s hitters on three straight possessions then converted the kill, giving NC the lead at 19-15.
Gonzales put the win out of reach for the Lady Raiders when she smacked a high-velocity ball onto the baseline for the 24th point. Walton committed a net violation on the ensuing point, and the Lady Warriors headed into the locker room with a 2-0 set lead after winning 25-22.
The Lady Warriors picked apart the Lady Raider defense, and earned themselves the number two seed in the playoffs after being reseeded. NC hosted the Elite Eight against the Brookwood Lady Broncos on Saturday, October 25. The Warriors defeated Brookwood in three straight sets, winning 25-12, 25-11, and 25-14. The Lady Warriors play rival East Coweta Indians in a semifinal match that determines a seed in the state championship.