South Forsyth didn't look good early, but they sure did in a hurry.
After falling down 8-1 in the opening set after a flurry of self-inflicted errors and setting issues, South recovered and cruised the rest of the way to win 25-23, 25-14 and 25-12 Saturday afternoon against North Cobb to advance to the Class 7A state championship semifinal, slated for Wednesday at Walton.
Walton (38-6) is a team South (33-18) knows all too well. The Lady War Eagles fell to Suzanne Fitzgerald's bunch 3-0 in last year's state championship final, though it wasn't without an inspiring third set. On that day South head coach Kelly Wren and her team—most of it slated to return—uttered the words, “we'll be back.” That could be amended—they want Walton again, but this time they get the dominant Lady Raiders a match before the final at Marietta High School.
“I've said that we are the only team that can really handle them,” Wren said. “I think we can be a good match. I don't mind the path because we have to deal with them either way. If we were to get through we have a better chance at the state final.”
The Lady War Eagles weren't looking ahead by any stretch against North Cobb; the truth was, the team is still building chemistry between setters Nyah Pacely and Hannah McGlockton and middle hitter Shea McNamara, who returned to the court from an injury just in time for the postseason. That lack of familiarity showed face early, as it has all season, but cleaned up quick after Amanda Nugent helped push South through Set 1 with 10 kills and an ace.
“By the end of the first set I think our setters realized the team had their back, they had been in these pressure situations before, and it really gave them the confidence to do their jobs. We got so much better as the match went on,” Wren said.
The contest wasn't close the rest of the way. North Cobb managed just two kills and four offensive points in the second set, where South showcased its ability at the net with five blocks, including two from McGlockton and two from Nugent. In the third set Nugent returned to her offensive form, registering seven more kills, while Lily Kincaid added four.
North Cobb's best weapon, Moriah Hopkins, showcased her strong, powerful swing—but not nearly as often as she would have liked—as South's defense stifled the Lady Warriors by being in the right place at the right time, and making leaping saves when they were a step or two off. Hopkins finished with eight total kills for the match.
“Our defense has been rocking it out. They have been lately,” Wren said. “I can't even put into words how good we've been on defense. Going into North Cobb and beating them 3-0 is a very complete game. I felt like we were the stronger team and felt like from the last time we played them, but being healthier and stronger, I didn't anticipate doing what we did today, the way that we did it.”
South faced off with Walton earlier in the season, falling 2-0, but the Lady War Eagles will be healthier this time around.
“We are going into this fully confident and have nothing to lose,” Wren said.