BUFORD — Gabby Curry wants to turn her sights from a shaky tri-match win Tuesday to a possible state title run.
“The goal is getting better,” said Curry, a junior who recently committed to play for the University of Kentucky. “We’re physically better than a lot of teams, so the focus is now on getting better technically, working on defense. That’s what you’re tested on in the state title game.”
The undefeated Lady Wolves (20-0, 4-0 Area 8-AAAA) used late hot streaks to top North Oconee in straight sets, with the first win (25-23, 25-19) coming closer than coach Hadli Daniels would have preferred. Buford would later thrash Madison County, 25-9, 25-8.
Buford next turns its focus to this weekend’s Gwinnett County Championships, where the team will square off against Greater Atlanta Christian, Meadowcreek and South Gwinnett. The tournament will begin at South Gwinnett High on Thursday.
“They pulled it out,” said Daniels, who led Buford to the 2014 state title game. “Some of our passing broke down, which led to our setters not being able to set the way they needed to, which led to some issues. But this is a learning experience. We’ll continue to work.”
Still, Buford is already on course for another long playoff run. Midway through the season, the Wolves have dropped just four sets all season and shouldn’t have any trouble securing a second straight Area 8-AAAA title.
Daniels’ team graduated just one starting senior over the offseason, and will expect to win its third straight Gwinnett County Championships.
But Buford struggled at times to string together combinations and finish off spikes Tuesday, which allowed North Oconee to threaten to steal the second set. Down a set, the Lady Titans crawled out of a 7-4 hole to tie at 10-all when Morgan Mitchell couldn’t return Alyssa Butler’s hard cross-court shot.
Emma Boughner’s ace helped North Oconee take a 16-15 lead, but sophomore Halston Hillier was able to rattle off three points on serve to help open up a large enough advantage. Tatum Shipes (nine kills, 11 digs) would score the winning point on a strong spike at the net.
The score was tied eight times throughout the set.
“I think this game was good for us,” said Shipes. “We know what we need to work on going into Gwinnett County, so we’ve got to do the little things. Last year, we struggled on picking up some of the small things, so we need to make sure we get better with every point.”
North Oconee had also pushed Buford in the opening set. Freshman Leslie Aldrich strung together five service points to put the Lady Titans up 7-5 before Shipes and teammate Avery Cason began to do damage on the wings to pull out to a 17-9 advantage.
Curry finished with 14 digs, while junior Morgan Mitchell added 23 assists.
“Right now, we’re on our base, and we’re building up,” said Curry. “We’ll be unstoppable in a couple years.”
The Lady Wolves later topped Madison County in straight sets.
Buford led by as much as 22-8 in the first set. In the second set, Curry put together five straight service points with Buford leading 14-6.
Curry led her team with seven kills, five aces and 13 digs, while Mitchell and Stella Alverson combined for 23 assists. Avery Cason had six kills and three aces in the game.