"We’d like to be a different bracket," said North Hall coach Debbie Wiley.
The reason for such a blunt statement?
Her Lady Trojans knew, with a win in their first game, they would face Class AAA state runner-up and perennial volleyball powerhouse Westminster.
The plan followed like they thought it would and, after beating Region 2-AAA’s Jordan in straight games (25-15, 26-24, 25-8) in the first match, North Hall faced and lost in straight games to Westminster (25-18, 25-8, 25-13).
"The girls were ready to play, but we didn’t do a lot of little things right," said Wiley, "and Westminster is to good too make errors against."
In its first match, North Hall looked like a team to be reckoned with at state, dominating Jordan for its first win.
North Hall took the lead at 2-1 early in the first game and didn’t relinquish it. In fact, they never trailed Jordan in the three games played and were only tied with them once, late in the second game, at 24-24.
Leading North Hall to its first round win were Katie Spell with 13 kills and 4.5 blocks, Caroline Cooper with 11 kills and Sara Anne McCoun with three kills and five aces.
In the second match of the tournament for the Lady Trojans, upsetting Westminster was on their mind as the first set with the state runners-up went back and forth, the emotion evident.
The proverbial wind was taken out of North Hall’s sails at the beginning of the second game when the Lady Wildcats jumped out to an 8-0 lead, a lead they would not lose for the duration of the game.
"We set high standards at the beginning of the season," said Wiley. "We might have lost games but we never lost focus. Our serves let us down in this game (against Westminster) and our little mistakes killed us."
Leading North Hall were Courtney Wiley with two kills, Cooper with two kills and one ace and Spell with two kills.
The loss concluded the Lady Trojans’ season, a season in which they repeated as Region 7-AAA champions.
The Region 7-AAA runner-up Lady Falcons of Flowery Branch spent their first match of the Class AAA state tournament coming from behind, but weren’t able to come far enough losing to Hardaway 3-2 (25-18, 9-25, 17-25, 25-19, 14-16).
In the first game, the Lady Hawks took an early 3-0 lead only to have Flowery Branch come roaring back to tie it and take the lead on an early kill by Chelsea Wilson.
The Lady Falcons would never relinquish that lead dominating Hardaway with back-to-back aces by Sorelyss Pino to make the score 10-6; Falyn Richardson, which brought the score to 18-10 and Samantha Salyers to make the score 24-15 and set up a match-ending kill by Richardson.
Hardaway made up for its lackluster performance in the first game by completely dominating Flowery Branch in the second and third game making Game 4 a must-win for the Lady Falcons.
And win they did, coming back from an 8-11 deficit early in the game to get the win and push the game to a fifth game. The key moments in the fourth game came on six straight serves by Richardson which led to six straight points for the Lady Falcons, one of those points coming on an ace by the Flowery Branch senior and an offensively dominant game by No. 11 who finished the match with three kills.
Megan Grewett and Richardson also shined offensively in the fourth game with Grewett having four kills and one ace and Richardson hitting for three kills, two of which finished Hardaway off and gave Flowery Branch the game, and one ace.
In the fifth game, to 15 points, Flowery came out on fire and looked as though momentum attributed to resilience would lead them to a win and place in the second round of the state tournament.
The Lady Falcons jumped out to a 9-3 lead on two kills and three aces by Megan Grewett.
It wasn’t to be, however, as the momentum shifted after a Hardaway timeout and subsequent sideout. The Lady Hawks tied the game at nine on a kill and went on to win the match.
Flowery Branch’s season concluded with the loss.
"We have girls that, when the chips are down, are go-to players and if one or two of those girls believe then they set the tone for the rest of us," said Flowery Branch coach Bryan Mavis. "The belief just turned out to not be enough."
The Lady Falcons will lose seniors Richardson, Chelsea Wilson, Sorelyss Pino and Mandy Pierce to graduation.