The award-winning voice of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The Chant

The award-winning voice of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The Chant

The award-winning voice of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The Chant

Sweet revenge: Warriors beat 15-time champs to secure another state title

Nathaniel Jordan
The NC varsity volleyball team (42-9) squared off against the Walton Raiders (21-8), a team that has dominated Georgia volleyball for over two decades After falling to the Raiders in the region championship, the Warriors spent the state playoff thirsting for the program’s first title in nine years. Head coach Stephen Sansing and his players pulled away from the Raiders to crown themselves state champions for the second time in school history.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the NC volleyball team (41-9) topped off an unforgettable season by punching a ticket to the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state championship. The Warriors squared up with the Walton Raiders (21-7), who have formed the state’s leading dynasty with 15 championships to their name. The rivals last met in the region championship in which the Raiders won in a tight 3-2 thriller. Prior to that match, NC defeated Walton in a mid-season 4-set match.

NC boasts six all-region Warriors, including Region 5 player of the year, senior outside hitter Nikol Antova (16). Antova’s 511 kills placed her in the top 100 nationally and seventh in the state before the championship matchup. Facing Walton’s five all-region talents and player of the year runner-up, senior outside hitter Sophia Henry (16), the Warriors poised themselves for a get-back opportunity against a program that has won 7 of the last 10 state titles. Since 2000, the Raiders have claimed over half the state’s championship trophies in 5a, 6a and 7a tournaments. Meanwhile, the Warriors chase their first title in nine years.

NC entered the game coming off a 3-0 shutout against tenth-ranked Cherokee (28-10), crushing Cherokee’s historic playoff run. Walton locked down their semifinal matchup versus a gritty and versatile fifth-ranked Hillgrove Hawks team (35-8). In the entire tournament, the two title contenders each lost only one set in four matches. 

Set one remained tight as neither team could gain a significant lead. NC reached the farthest lead in the set after a Walton violation put the score at 18-15. NC’s frontline demonstrated their power early with Antova’s seven kills, junior outside hitter Sarah Boyles’s (7) three kills and junior middle hitter Carys Sanabria’s (10) two kills in the 25-23 set one victory. 

The Warriors defended the Raider’s barrage of offensive attacks with a trio of blocks from Antova and senior middle hitters Titomi Adeyinka (12) and Imani Mensah (11). Antova topped off the set scoring four of NC’s final five points with a block and three kills.

NC’s powerful front overpowered Walton’s attackers. The right side remained locked down by senior middle hitters Titomi Adeyinka (12) and Imani Mensah (11). Junior hitter Carys Sanabria (10) also spent valuable time on the court as they all scored a significant share of kills and blocks, preventing the Raiders from gaining substantial momentum. (Nathaniel Jordan)

A crowd-silencing strike from Antova to complete the set seemed to blow a hole in Walton’s morale, but adjustments for the second set overwhelmed NC. A 5-0 start for the Raiders provoked a timeout from Warriors head coach, Stephen Sansing. Henry matched Antova’s dominant first set with four kills of her own. After falling to a ten-point deficit, the Warriors could not control the momentum from Walton in the second set. The Raiders blew the Warriors out 25-14 to tie the match 1-1.

After a disappointing set, NC players and coaches grew visibly flustered after a series of long, draining rallies continued to fall in Walton’s favor. Sansing took the team off the court to regroup and noted the Warriors’ early shortfalls, which he said followed the theme for their nine losses this season. In matches that NC lost, they fell behind early. Sansing told the team to forget the set and start scoring early in the third.

“After that second set, we said that one was our worst, that it was garbage and let’s come out and do things we know we can do, and not give up free points. When we can do that, we’re pretty good,” Sansing said.

The Warriors did exactly as Sansing ordered, keeping neck and neck with the Raiders. Coming off the bench, Mensah broke out in the third set to secure a kill and two blocks. After Walton narrowly stepped into a 12-11 lead, NC tore through the remainder of the set. The Warriors proceeded with a 14-3 run to finalize set three with a 25-15 lead.

In the fourth set of the best-of-five, NC opened the floodgates early highlighted by a tremendous dig from sophomore libero Hannah Nicholson (9). Walton immediately responded to NC’s 3-0 start with four points of their own. From there, the two teams continued with six lead changes until a Walton timeout.

After the break, the Warriors ran away with the lead. With another two clutch digs from Nicholson, a block from Antova and two kills from Sanabria, the energy at Lakepoint started to shift, Walton’s fans grew increasingly quiet as the Warriors’ student section crept toward the court. 

Senior outside hitter Nikol Antova (16) fired 20 kills, her top performance in the state playoffs. Antova kept guard at the net all game, hammering down passes on Walton’s end. The state of Georgia witnessed Antova’s ability to take over a match, and Walton fans even recognized her talents from the stands, calling her “unstoppable.” (Nathaniel Jordan)

“Nikol has been an amazing hitter, defender and great server. She’s the exact type of leader we needed out of a senior this year. We’ll lose a lot of seniors…but even with losing those guys we have a lot of faith in the ones that will step up and fill those shoes next year,” Sansing said.

Late in the set, Antova recorded kill numbers 19 and 20, finishing her Warrior career with 1205 kills, submitting her legacy and etching her name into NC history. On the final play, Walton’s junior outside hitter Lauren Butler (20) missed a serve to hand NC a win and revenge for their region championship loss. As NC fans, players and coaches rushed to the court in celebration, Antova and her fellow seniors stood in awe at the landmark accomplishment. NC fended off the premier Georgia volleyball program, and for the first time in nearly a decade, the Warriors once again hoisted the golden volleyball to mark the first state title in Coach Sansing’s 20-year coaching career.

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About the Contributor
Nathaniel Jordan, Reporter
Nathaniel Jordan, a senior magnet student and cadet in NC’s NJROTC program,  begins his first year on the school newspaper. Jordan's deep passion for writing and research led him to his aspirations of journalism as a future career path. Outside the classroom, Jordan has played for NC’s baseball team, participated on three competitive teams in JROTC and is employed as a head instructor at Choi Kwang Do martial arts. His creative mind extends his wide range of talents into painting, skateboarding and photography. Jordan consistently constructs compelling and thought-provoking poems and is currently working on his first poetry book poetry. Jordan volunteers every Sunday at his church working in the daycare, and strives to be active in school and in his community. With his strenuous efforts to demonstrate great leadership, Jordan attained positions as assistant operations officer, platoon commander, and class leader in JROTC. Jordan also served as a magnet ambassador. Jordan’s goals on The Chant are to grow the NC community and to bring knowledge to social events, breaking news and spreading his passion and knowledge to all readers. Reaching the tail end of his high school career, Jordan hopes his variety of articles on The Chant can help grow the spirit of Warrior Nation, and ensure that nobody is uninformed.

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