The area championship should be a familiar sight.
Thursday's Area 6-7A tournament championship match will feature the same teams as last season, with Lambert and North Forsyth winning their semifinal matches Wednesday.
North will look to avenge last year's loss to Lambert in the title match, after beating a Denmark team that was peaking at the right time.
North Head coach Kelly Christensen was proud of the way her team rallied to claim the 3-2 victory and advance to the championship.
“Denmark’s hot right now,” Christensen said. “We’ve known that since they played Lambert a week or so ago. We saw they took them to five, so we respected that. We didn’t know who we were going to have between West and Denmark today. Once we knew who our opponent was, we respected the streak that Denmark’s been on. I feel like our girls were kind of pushed back on our heels at first. Come this time of year, a win is a win, especially in the postseason. It’s all about advancing, and we did our job.”
The Raiders were down 2-1 and losing in the fourth set. Christensen called a well-timed timeout that refocused North and turned the match around.
“I feel like our girls just kind of flipped a switch,” Christensen said. “So often with them we preach energy, body language and facial expression, and they can sense that. I called a timeout, and I asked them what I was gonna say, and they all immediately knew it. After that, a switch flipped. I think the message coming from them was received a little bit better than coming from me every time throughout the year. Credit to them, our girls were the ones that turned it around.”
Brooke Crummel led the way with 20 kills, but it was a full team effort for North to finish it off in the final set.
With a rematch with Lambert looming and a region title on the line, Christensen has been channeling Jimmy V energy to help her team focus on the task at hand.
“We keep telling our girls, we’re not thinking about the moment we’re in,” Christensen said. “Just survive and advance, survive and advance. Try to get us the best position that we can come state tournament. We’re trying not to get that too much in our heads. We’ll be ready for whoever we’ve got tomorrow.”
In the later match, Lambert blanked Central 3-0, including winning the final set 25-9. The Longhorns seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.
“I was really proud of the way they played a complete game,” Lambert coach Missey Hall said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had everybody healthy on the court at the same time. It was nice to see everybody respond so well. That bench was amazing tonight. Everybody was engaged. It was exactly what we were hoping for, and I’m really impressed with the way they played tonight.”
Ella Beyer led the way for Lambert with 23 kills in only three sets. That dominant showing bodes well for the Longhorns’ title hopes.
“It’s been our goal all season to make sure we get there,” Hall said. “These girls have worked to get to the region finals again. They’ve got a lot of tradition on their side, but this is a new team. We’ve got to make sure that they’re fully prepared for North tomorrow. North came back in a super exciting match. They played really well when their backs were against the wall. They’re coming back with some fire for tomorrow tonight, and I’m looking forward to a very exciting match.”
With the area championship coming fewer than 24 hours since their last match ended, Hall has her team focused on rest as they try and lock up home court advantage in the state tournament for as long as they can.
“I am glad that we won in three,” Hall said. “We can save some legs, save some arms. You’ve just got to get back on the horse. We’ve got some good game film. We played well last time, but everybody’s got to execute and follow the game plan. I think they’re where they need to be mentally and physically. Thank God everybody’s back out on the court together. But as a full team, I think we’re really gunning for the first spot.”
Central and Denmark will face off at 5 p.m. Thursday in the third-place game, while Lambert and North will play at 7 p.m. Both games will be at West Forsyth High School.