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Volleyball: Walton knocks out Lambert in Elite Eight
Lambert sophomore Dani Cortes goes up for a kill Tuesday during the Longhorns' 3-0 loss to Walton in the Class 7A Elite Eight. - photo by David Roberts

MARIETTA — Lambert had finally stolen momentum. 

Halfway through the third set, down 2-0, the Longhorns won six of seven points, a run that featured back-to-back-to-back kills by Ella Beyer. A kill by Taylor Nelson, plus a couple of unforced errors by Walton, allowed Lambert to force a 17-17 tie. Then another kill from Nelson and a block by Molly Kate Patten triggered a Walton timeout and gave the Longhorns a 19-17 lead.

A kill and an ace by Mary Neal out of the timeout allowed the Raiders to tie the set, but Neal's ensuing serve was too strong and traveled out of the back of the court, then a Walton spike landed out of bounds to return a two-point lead to Lambert.

However, Walton's depth was on display as the Raiders won seven of the final 10 points, which included kills from Neal, Aviah Miller and Elizabeth Curry, to win the final set and end Lambert's season in the Class 7A Elite Eight, 3-0.

"It was difficult to prepare for," Lambert coach Missey Hall said of Walton's depth. "A lot of teams we've played this year have one or two, but they have weapons every time they're on the front row. I thought we prepared for it really well, but they definitely controlled that fast tempo. In our region, it's not as fast as that, and we tried to prepare for that and practice for it."

Walton won 25-19, 25-14, 26-24.

Neal, a Mississippi State commit, had 14 kills and was a constant threat at the net, adding two blocks in the second set, which set the tone.

Walton jumped out to a 12-1 lead after two blocks and two kills by Neal, sandwiched between a string of aces by Miller. 

"They controlled the tempo. Really well coached. Everybody played well tonight. They didn't do anything we weren't prepared for, which I feel decent about. We broke down a little bit on serve/receive, but I love the way they fought back when they were really down. We got some good kills when we needed to. Defensively, we got some good digs when we needed to. Just a little too short tonight."

Beyer led the Longhorns with nine kills, including five in the final set, and added three blocks and an ace. Taylor Nelson finished with 10 digs and five kills, while Molly Kate Patten had four kills and three blocks. Francesca Popescu had a team-high 18 digs, while Aubrey Lee had seven. 

Lee, Nelson and Mary Grace DeMarco are the lone seniors for the Longhorns.

"Having Taylor the last three years has been an absolute blessing — spark plug, blessing, does it all on the court," Hall said. "There not a skill that she's not really excellent at. Aubrey came in and did a great job, especially defensively. She served well. Mary Grace is just a joy to have on the team. They will be missed — all three."