Lady Warrior volleyball makes school history, heads to state championship

Savannah Gonzales, number four, spikes the ball over the net, hoping for a point against East Coweta. She finished the game with 22 kills, the highest of the team.

Fatima Elfakahany

Savannah Gonzales, number four, spikes the ball over the net, hoping for a point against East Coweta. She finished the game with 22 kills, the highest of the team.

Tyler Sesan, Features editor

In their third semifinal appearance in the last four years, the North Cobb Lady Warriors Volleyball team advanced to the state championship round for the first time in school history after defeating the East Coweta Lady Indians in four sets, winning 25-27, 25-16, 25-16, and 26-24.

“When we won it felt like all our hard work paid off,” senior libero Christina Matacotta said. “We have been working hard together since the summer as a team and improving all the time. The amount of effort we have put toward this season showed as we fought for the win in extra points in that fourth set. I have never been so proud.”

A fourth set, which got tighter in the end, leaned toward the Lady Warriors early. After senior right-side hitter Simone Maxwell hung in the air for a kill to give NC a 3-2 lead, senior outside hitter Savanna Gonzales, who tallied 22 kills on the night, started a serving streak that would put the Warriors in front 10-2. Gonzales streak included two aces and East Coweta’s frustrated coach called their first timeout at 6-2.

Jenna Woodruff (left) and Savannah Gonzales (right) jump to block a spike from Lady Indian number 11.

Fatima Elfakahany

NC continued firing at their opposition. Senior outside hitter Abby Miller had 15 kills in the match, Maxwell finished with 12 kills, and junior middle Lizzy Daniel held her own with eight kills and two blocks. The fourth set included a surge of streaks by both teams. First, NC jumped out to their comfortable lead; however, the Lady Indians fought back to tie the set at 16-16. A few kills each by Maxwell and Gonzales put the Warriors ahead 20-17, when the Lady Indians woke up. East Coweta proceeded to take the lead 23-20 after a few Warrior miscues.

Sophomore middle Jenna Woodruff answered the Lady Indians with a clutch kill of her own to cut EC’s lead. EC hit two balls out of bounds on the ensuing points and the Warriors tied the game at 24-24. Sophomore defensive specialist Katelynn Riner kept the clinching point alive with a diving dig. Miller stepped up and provided the lift that NC needed and drove two straight kills into the court, untouched, for the Warrior win, 26-24, and a berth in the state championship. Miller excels in her versatility and contortion as a hitter and has the game winning point in all of NC’s playoff matches this season.

“In the last set, we knew we had to shut things down and get serious about finishing the game,” Miller said. “We stayed focused and came together as a team, taking it one point at a time.”

The third set highlighted a route of a desperate team. Gonzales struck first blood on a swing that was tipped to the back wall of the gym for the Warrior point. She added another kill that hit the baseline before any EC player could react. Junior setter Taylor Parrish added 48 assists on the evening, and her tight passing close to the net helped the Warriors’ hitters elevate to make timely plays. A Matacotta ace, two Miller kills and an ace, and a Gonzales kill set up NC with match point. Daniel then received a tight pass from Parrish, jumped and finished the set off when her swing got tipped last by EC. The Warriors won the third set 25-16.

“Oh, it is so great to get over the hump of the Final Four,” Gonzales said. “I am really happy with the possibility that we have, to play in a state final.”

From left: Savannah Gonzales, Taylor Parrish, Elizabeth Daniel, and Christina Matacotta celebrate after Daniel scored a point for North Cobb against East Coweta.

Fatima Elfakahany

Just as the third set did, the second set featured domination by the Lady Warriors. The set stayed tight for the first half, until the Lady Warriors gained momentum when Miller started a serving streak. NC took the lead for good at 16-10 when Miller led the team on a five-point serving streak. Gonzales struck down three straight kills to extend the lead to 19-12. A set violation, a few timely digs by Maxwell and Gonzales swing on match point lifted the Lady Warriors to a second set victory, 25-16, evening the set score at 1-1 heading into the locker room.

NC leaped out to a considerable lead to start the first set, partially due to sophomore outside hitter Shannon Callan’s serving close to the net. Callan’s aggressive serving doomed EC’s passing early on, and the Lady Warriors held a 21-15 lead when EC called their second timeout. A couple of Matacotta aces, Miller swings, and Maxwell blocks aided the Warriors in their first set surge. However, the Lady Indians fought back, and continued to inch back when NC burned their first timeout after an EC 5-1 run. The score read 22-20 with NC leading, but the Lady Indians prevailed, stealing the first set 27-25.

The NC Lady Warriors look to finish their season with another win as they face the North Gwinnett Lady Bulldogs Saturday, November 1 at Marietta High School at 4:00 pm.