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Buford volleyball team sweeps Woodward Academy, books spot in Class AAAA state title match
Lady Wolves (40-0) faces St. Pius X in Saturday's championship match
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Woodward Academy's Lauren Harrison (14) attempts to make a block as Buford's Avery Cason (11) spikes the ball over the net during Wednesday's semifinal match in the Class AAAA state tournament at Buford High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Class AAAA state title match: Buford vs. St. Pius X 

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Marietta High School

One year after heartbreak, Buford’s volleyball team is back in the AAAA State Championship game after sweeping Woodward Academy 3-0 in a best-of-five semifinal match Wednesday.

The win pairs up the Lady Wolves against St. Pius X, which defeated last year’s state champion Marist to get to the title game.

The championship game will be played at Marietta High School, and is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“I think it just brought back all the memories of last year,” sophomore Tatum Shipes said of the semifinal win. “This is another chance to come back and win state. This win is a chance to redeem ourselves. It’s just another step on our journey.”

A journey it has been, but the Lady Wolves haven’t so much as stumbled along their path back to the title game.

Buford is on a winning streak, 40-0, since last year’s loss to Marist in the final. Along their march to a perfect season through the semifinals, the Lady Wolves have lost just four of the 92 sets they’ve played this year.

Coach Hadli Daniels, who picked up her 200th career win Wednesday, said her team just needs to understand the importance of every point as her players head into the title match. But they also need to remember the feeling they had after last year’s game.

“It was a heartbreak,” Daniels said. “We were so close, and they don’t want to go home feeling like that again. Ever since last year on that day, that’s what’s been in their minds. We just have to learn that every single point is important.”

After winning the first two sets over Woodward, Daniels was still on top of her players and trying to keep them playing hard and not getting into too much of a relaxed state of play.

The Lady Wolves were winning the third set after rushing out to a 7-1 lead before a timeout was called.

“When you get a big lead like that, you tend to let down a little bit. I didn’t want them to do that and we started doing it a little bit,” Daniels said. “I wanted to say for them not to let (Woodward) in it at all and take advantage.”

Buford scored another two points, taking a 9-1 lead before the War Eagles began to mount a comeback.

Woodward scored 10 of the next 15 points, cutting the lead to three.

The teams traded points, keeping the deficit at three with a score of 17-14, before the home team closed out the set with an 8-2 run to win 25-16.

The lead changed five times in the second set before Buford took the lead for good. The two bounced back and forth, with the War Eagles scoring as late as 14-13.

Once again, it was the Lady Wolves who would take the lead for good, though Woodward put up a good fight and pushed the set to a final score of 25-21.

The two teams played tight in the opening frame, with Woodward jumping out to a 15-14 lead. However, back-to-back aces from Shipes set Buford apart for good.

Including the two aces, Buford went on a 10-1 run to close the set after it was tied. Morgan Mitchell had 33 assists for the Lady Wolves.

Shipes finished the game with a team-leading 15 kills. She also had five aces and nine digs, but it was the kills that grabbed attention.

“What can you say? They weren’t just kills. They were through the floor,” Daniels said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen her hit so hard. I think the crowd had something to do with getting them pumped up.”

Both Shipes and Daniels said the crowd inside the Wolves’ Den was the biggest crowd they’ve had for a volleyball match.

“We’ve never had a crowd like this before, so it’s really cool to have the support of the whole school,” Daniels said. “The football coach ended practice early today so that his football players could all come. It was just a great environment for them and we’re just glad to get back to where we were last year. It’s just a relief right now.”

As Shipes said, this isn’t just getting back to where the team was a year ago — this is a chance at redemption.

“One more, that’s the goal,” Shipes said. “We’re going to get it. That’s been our dream. This is our last step. We’ve just got to finish our goal.”

The sophomore said she hopes the crowd follows them to Marietta on Saturday for the match to hopefully see them earn that redemption.

Shipes called Marietta the “place we got our hearts broken,” but knows it’s a place to make history for Buford.

“We’ve come a long way from where our volleyball program was when it first started until now,” Shipes said. “We were already on the first team to make it to a state championship. Now we have another chance to be the first team to win a state championship.”

Class AAAA state title match: Buford vs. St. Pius X 

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Marietta High School


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