All-Area 8-AAAA Volleyball
Player of the Year
Gabby Curry, Buford
Coach of the Year
Hadli Daniels, Buford
Buford, Gabby Curry
Buford, Morgan Sutherland
Buford, Morgan Mitchell
Buford, Tatum Shipes
Chestatee, Maddie Woodard
Johnson, Grace Eidson
Madison County, Samantha Watson
North Hall, Lily Paschall
North Hall, Makenzie Bryant
North Oconee, Lizzy Aldrich
North Oconee, Emma Boughner
North Oconee, Makenzie Perry
BUFORD — With a hard shot just in front of the net, Tatum Shipes made sure Buford (36-0) could check off the latest accomplishment of an already unprecedented season.
The sophomore, who recently committed to Auburn University, completed a return past a North Oconee defender that secured Buford’s second straight Area 8-AAAA championship on Thursday with a simple three-set win over the Lady Titans (34-8).
“We set goals at the beginning of the season,” said Shipes. “First, we wanted to get the little things done first. Now, I think we’re better and stronger than ever.”
Finish the regular season undefeated? Check.
Win a third straight Gwinnett County Championship? Check.
Secure back-to-back Area titles? Check.
The only thing remaining on Buford’s to-do list is to finally capture that elusive state championship.
The Lady Wolves were just two points away from reaching that goal last season before falling to Marist in a five-set thriller of a championship match. But the close finish has since fueled Buford’s current run, which has turned an undefeated jaunt through 2015 into an expectation.
“When we started out last year at 15-0, it was great, but this year, it’s kind of expected,” said junior Gabby Curry, who’s committed to Kentucky. “It’s great to look at how good we are, but it’s tournament time now. I think we’re ready.”
The Lady Wolves have lost just four sets all season, and had no trouble dispatching North Oconee 25-20, 25-12, 25-14.
Curry (15 kills, 16 digs) and Shipes both converted kills before Morgan Sutherland’s hard shot past two defenders allowed Buford to pull away in the opening frame.
And the Lady Wolves led by as much as 10 in the second set, thanks to Morgan Mitchell’s (28 assists) hard hit from left to right.
Curry, who was named the Area Player of the Year, then smacked an ace to give Buford a comfortable lead in the third set before Shipes’ return secured a win that puts the Lady Wolves a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs.
Buford made it to the final by beating White County and Madison County in straight sets, while North Oconee earned the berth by defeating Stephens County and North Hall.
Even sophomore Halston Hillier got in on the act, creating seven kills. According to Wolves coach Hadli Daniels, Hillier has come into her own throughout the postseason. While teams try to create hard matchups for Curry and Shipes, Daniels said it’s important for the rest of her players to step up.
“We’ve all had good team chemistry, so it’s something we want to keep up for as long as we can,” said Hillier. “We all think about last year, what we could have done better, what if we had put in a little more effort? But now the practice is more intense ... We’re feeling good.”
The Lady Wolves will next play a first-round opponent at home on Wednesday. The time is yet to be determined.
In the meantime, the Lady Wolves remain cautiously optimistic that they can pull off an undefeated state championship run. Their motivation of falling one step short is keeping them hungry, according to Curry.
“It would be pressure if I didn’t have confidence in what we are, what we do,” she said. “I have confidence and we have confidence in each other. That’s a big plus.”
NORTH HALL CLINCHES NO. 3 SEED WITH WINS OVER WHITE COUNTY, MADISON COUNTY: The Lady Trojans came out strong early and never looked back, securing straight wins over the Lady Warriors and the Red Raiders to earn a No. 3 seed in the Class AAAA state playoffs.
North Hall (26-18) will go on the road to face its next opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
The Trojans topped White County 25-8, 25-7 before sweeping Madison County 25-16, 25-8.
Lily Paschall (43 assists, five digs) and Makenzie Bryant (14 digs, two kills) earned All-Area first team honors for the Lady Trojans, while Autumn Tucker (25 kills, four digs) and Melissa DeVerter (11 kills, 4 aces) earned spots on the second team.
“Autumn played lights out,” said North Hall coach Emi Hughes. “Her first couple of matches, she could get anything she wanted. Makenzie was a fantastic captain of our defense, as well.”
Last year, North Hall finished second in Area 8-AAAA before making it to the state quarterfinals.