Area 5-AAA Volleyball Tournament
Buford def. West Hall 25-11, 25-18
North Hall def. East Hall 25-18, 25-14
Buford def. North Hall, 25-19, 25-21
Sharing an area with Class AAA’s top two ranked teams, Buford and North Hall realize that simply qualifying for the postseason is an accomplishment.
The Lady Wolves and Lady Trojans secured their spots in the state playoffs by finishing third and fourth in the Area 5-AAA tournament on Thursday at North Hall.
Fourth-ranked Buford (32-10) secured the No. 3 seed with a 25-19, 25-21 win over sixth-ranked North Hall (30-15) in the third-place game. The Lady Trojans are seeded No. 4.
They’ll represent Area 5-AAA alongside state powers St. Pius X, a winner in a three-game championship match against Blessed Trinity. All four teams look to be favorites to win their first-round matches.
“It’s good that we get to play them during the season, and we know what we’re up against,” Buford coach Hadli Daniels said. “It’s frustrating that we’re all in the same region, but at the same time we go through the state tournament without getting matched up with them until we get to the final four, if we make it that far.”
The Lady Wolves came one match short of that mark a year ago, but have a favorable first-round opponent in the No. 2 seed from a weaker Area 4-AAA on Wednesday.
North Hall, which will play the Area 4-AAA champion in the first round, didn’t hand over the No. 3 seed to Buford without a fight.
After trailing for the majority of Game 1, the Lady Trojans used a five-point run early in the second game to take control of the contest and lead by as much six before Buford surged back to tie the game at 19-19. North Hall jumped back ahead 21-20, but the Lady Wolves rallied again to score six consecutive points and secure the match victory.
The Lady Trojans’ strong showing in Game 2 was led by Sydney Cleveland, who kick-started the charge with three consecutive kills during a five-point run to give North Hall an early lead.
“North Hall played a great match — they were definitely making it difficult for us,” Daniels said. “I think our girls were a little frazzled. They just kind of calmed down and just played their normal game and luckily we were able to pull it out.”
Buford clinched a playoff spot by defeating West Hall 25-11, 25-18 in its first match of the day. The Lady Wolves led the entirety of the first, but needed a strong second half of Game 2 to overcome the Lady Spartans’ early lead.
Senior Maggie Roper, a four-starter for Buford, finished the day with 15 kills and 15 digs. Freshman Gabby Curry recorded 14 kills and 10 digs, Morgan Mitchell tallied 38 assists and Mikhalya Riegel added 19 digs.
North Hall, which missed the playoffs a year ago after reaching the second round in 2011, punched its ticket to the postseason with a 25-18, 25-14 win over East Hall. A seven-point service run in Game 2 highlighted the victory.
The win notched the Lady Trojans’ 30th victory of the season, a feat coach Emi Hughes was proud of.
“This is the toughest area in the state, in my opinion,” Hughes said. “We’re very pleased with the four seed. This is preparing us for the best, because these are the best teams.”
Cleveland finished the night with 25 kills, five aces and seven digs for North Hall. Kristina Gregory recorded 31 assists, six aces, six digs and one kill. Julie Daniels had seven kills, 11 digs, two aces and one block. Makenzie Bryant tallied 20 digs, Andi Fleming had 18 digs, one assist and one ace, and Jen Mullican recorded four blocks and two kills.