Host Sequoyah finished at the top of it’s four-team group defeating Newnan, Kennesaw Mountain and Columbus in straight sets to reach the gold bracket, which contained the top two teams from each group.
The Lady Chiefs, filled with a mostly inexperienced core of players, then suffered their first defeat of the tournament at the hands of Lambert in a close set that saw them lose 26-24, 25-19 and were eliminated from the competition.
Even in defeat, Sequoyah coach John Edwards was proud of the spirited effort that his team put in.
“Our kids worked hard,” Edwards said. “In quite a few of our matches we were down, such as against Columbus, but we came back and won. That was something I was impressed with, the kind of fight we had. We had composure.”
Included in Sequoyah’s team effort was a better than expected performance in passing, a crucial component in volleyball to scoring offensively.
“You never know how your passing is going to look early in the year,” Edwards said. “(The team) passed better than I thought we would at this stage of the season. We had a lot of younger players step up and take responsibility.”
With its combined effort and improved passing, Sequoyah managed to end the tournament on a high note when it defeated Columbus in the tournament’s consolation game 25-22, 26-24.
At the end of its match with Columbus, Sequoyah failed to convert its first match point opportunity at 24-23. The Lady Chiefs responded when freshman Kelley Hartman had a solo block to earn their second match point. Then, setter Logan Page caught Columbus off guard when, instead of setting up a teammate with a pass, she dumped the ball over the net into the open court.
Freshman Kali Jones led Sequoyah with eight kills in the match and senior Maggie Hartman added 2½ blocks.
Like Sequoyah, Etowah was one of the tournament’s hosts as well. Similar to Sequoyah, Etowah’s end result was good early, but less satisfying after pool play.
The Lady Eagles went undefeated in their pool with wins over Mill Creek, Sandy Creek and Oconee County. But Etowah lost a three-set match with Milton in the first round of the gold bracket.
Defensively, junior libero Allie Elson led the team with 17 digs, adding four aces. Junior outside hitter Jenna Lea finished with 49 kills and seven aces to lead the offense.
“Overall, it was a good start,” Etowah coach Kim Robertson said.
As the Lady Eagles move into Area 4AAAAAA this year, Elson and Lea provide Etowah with the team’s one experience, as the team was ravaged by losses due to graduation.
Etowah’s Towne Lake rival, Woodstock, fell short of the gold bracket after placing third in its pool due to losses to Lambert and Whitewater, the eventual tournament winner.
The Lady Wolverines did manage to make the final four of the silver consolation bracket by defeating Newnan and Kennesaw Mountain in straight sets.
They were eventually ousted by East Coweta, who also knocked Woodstock out of last year’s state tournament.
Though displeased with some lapses, Woodstock coach Anita Dodd was pleased overall with team’s chemistry.
“I liked our cohesiveness and the older players’ willingness to accept the new players on the team,” Dodd said. “The older girls assisted the new girls both on and off the court, and I really liked the way that it happened.”
Dodd pointed out seniors Grace Townsend and Paige Trammel as standout performers for the Lady Wolverines.
“Grace was struggling at one point, but, once we got into a rhythm, she was able to make some great sets,” Dodd said “Paige made some amazing digs and her passes were primarily on target — as usual.”
The tournament also saw Creekview advance to the gold bracket after finishing second in its pool behind Chattahoochee.
The Grizzlies managed to make the quarterfinals before falling to South Forsyth 26-24, 25-12.
Creekview would go on to defeat Lassiter in its consolation game.
Setter Kelly Salabarria ended with 54 assists, 13 digs and four aces. Julia Dayoub led the offense with 32 kills, adding 21 digs and seven aces. Kayley Edgar and Natalie Razov combined for 50 digs. Katie Creger led with 13 blocks and posted seven kills.
The only county team that went winless throughout was Cherokee. The Lady Warriors finished fourth in their pool after losing to Northgate, John’s Creek and Rockdale County.
Cherokee’s second-year coach Kristen Weiss felt that although the team failed to win, the tournament was useful in helping the Lady Warriors earn key experience for the remainder of the season.
“The more matches we played, the better the team looked as a whole,” Weiss said. “There were little things that needed fixing in each match, and they finally pulled it all together in the final (consolation) game against Kell. They played the best against Kell that they played all weekend.”
— Adam Carrington contributed to this story.