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Volleyball: Lassiter defense foils Lambert in Class 7A semifinals
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MARIETTA – The last Lambert volleyball saw of Lassiter, it was Sept. 8, still the time of the season for self-discovery, and for sure both teams were searching then. The Lady Longhorns happened to prevail in four sets that day. They added the win, digested lessons from it and moved forward. Bigger goals awaited.

When the teams met again Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class 7A state playoffs, Lambert encountered a different Lassiter, one much surer of itself on defense, and the Lady Longhorns had no counter-punch in a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-18) loss to bring their best season in school history to an end.    

The potential existed for an all-Forsyth County state championship match, with Lambert’s rival South Forsyth taking on Walton in the other semifinal mere minutes away from Lassiter. Instead, the state title will go to Cobb County; Walton, the defending state champion, defeated South, 3-1. Lassiter and Walton will play Saturday, 6:30 p.m., at Marietta High School to decide the Class 7A winner.

Lambert head coach Missey Hall lamented the season’s conclusion, but not the match Wednesday. The Lady Longhorns executed the game plan she designed, she said, tracking Lassiter senior Libby Bochniak on defense and aiming for open seams on offense. The plan just couldn’t account for Lassiter’s revived defense that absorbed Lambert’s best swings.

“[Lassiter] was so great defensively,” Hall said. “We weren’t able to put the ball down like we were the first time. … They had so many digs that we thought were winners immediately, and they got a hand on them. They played a great game tonight.”

Lambert (31-13) had its best shot in the first set, and even then the Lady Longhorns had to overcome unforced errors as well as Lassiter playing on its home court. Lambert trailed by as much as 19-11, but a 6-1 run closed the gap. The Lady Longhorns were within a point three times. The set ended on a poor serve, Lambert’s ninth unforced error.

Optimism gradually eroded for Lambert. Tied 12-12 in the second set, Lassiter went on a 7-2 run to seize control. The Lady Longhorns never got within more than three points again.

Lambert never seriously threatened in the third set. The Lady Longhorns got within 19-15 on Kendal Barrett’s second block of the set. Madeleine Bertz twice avoided match point with emphatic kills to pull Lambert within six points. Lassiter wouldn’t be denied.

“They went out and fought every inch of the way,” Hall said. “I can’t ask for more than that.”

Ally Hall had a team-high seven kills and 12 assists, Bertz had six kills and Amanda Sinning and Kailin Taggart each added four kills. Barrett, a senior, ended her last high school match with 11 assists, while fellow seniors Jordyn Moellering (19 digs), Sissy Allen (nine digs), Sarah Thierer (eight digs) and Kendall Spangler finished their careers on a stage not previously reached before by Lambert volleyball.

“I’m so proud of these girls and what they’ve accomplished this season,” Hall said. “We’ve just got neighborhood girls, and they’ve worked through the program. We have three seniors who have played since they were freshmen; it’s just really nice to see them get this far. I couldn’t be more proud.”