Prior to their first-round meeting in the Class 7A state playoffs, West Forsyth and North Cobb had met four previous times, dating back to the summer.
Wolverines head coach Jake Dickey never saw the Warriors play as clean as they did Tuesday at West Forsyth, where they eliminated the hosts by a 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-23) final score.
“We definitely know each other really well,” Dickey said of the matchup between the sixth-ranked Warriors and No. 8 Wolverines. “It just comes down to execution. I felt like today that they definitely made less mistakes than we made. We had some mistakes and unforced errors.
“It was probably an Elite Eight- or Final Four-level skill matchup in the first round.”
West Forsyth (27-17) got off to a much slower start than it did in the Region 6-7A finals against Lambert. In that match, the Wolverines captured the opening set before ultimately falling in four sets to settle for runner-up.
This time around, West Forsyth found itself down 18-12 in the first set before a timeout led to a comeback. The Wolverines got back to within 18-16 off consecutive aces by Lymaris Vasquez.
However, a missed opportunity at the net to put away a poor pass by North Cobb (40-10) allowed the visitors to regroup and grab a 25-21 win.
West Forsyth again found itself competing midway through the second set, as a Vasquez ace closed the gap to 13-12. North Cobb, though, responded with a 12-2 run to close out the set.
The Wolverines led for a significant chunk of the third set, holding a 12-6 edge at one point following a block by Kaylee Cantlin and Audrey Farbotko.
The Warriors took their first lead at 19-18, and after a narrow miss by the hosts on a well-placed tip put them down two points, Dickey called timeout.
With the season on the line, West Forsyth battled back. Consecutive kills by Vasquez put the Wolverines ahead by a 23-22 margin.
But a timeout by the Warriors preceded a match-ending 3-0 run to send North Cobb to the Sweet 16.
“We had a shot in that third set,” Dickey said. “If you take that one, you never know."
Overall, Vasquez wound up with seven kills, 12 digs and four aces. Fellow senior Reece Rhoads contributed nine kills and five digs.
Taryn Dickey recorded 15 assists and 10 digs. Adeline Wieler paced the locals with 13 digs, while Farbotko managed a team-high five blocks.
A pair of four-year starters, Vasquez and Rhoads concluded their careers as two of the top performers in program history. Vasquez set the school record in career aces, while finishing third in kills and digs. Rhoads broke the record for career kills earlier this season.
“It was an honor to coach them,” Jake Dickey said. “They’ve been great, and they’ve just meant so much to our program. It’s been great having them for four years.”
As tough as they will be to replace as players, Dickey knows the leadership void the graduation of Vasquez and Rhoads will leave. But based on what he saw from his mostly young team, Dickey is encouraged about the future.
“Seniors did a great job this year leading by example and vocally when they needed to,” he said. “Really proud of them and the way everybody kind of did it by committee. We had players stepping up and coming up from JV. We had players who didn’t play as much coming in and playing well. Everybody was ready to go.”