Flush with smiles and quick to hug each other after it was finished, North Hall High’s volleyball program checked off another major accomplishment Saturday with a repeat berth in the state semifinals.
This time, however, the Lady Trojans (45-10) want to write a different ending.
Paced by the consistent play of seven seniors, North Hall topped the Savannah Arts Academy 25-13 in the first two sets, then 25-20 in the third set to make quick work of the third-round opponent in Gainesville. Now the Lady Trojans (46-10) are back in the Final Four after getting to the same point in the postseason for the first time in school history in 2016.
“This is huge right here making it back to the semifinals,” an elated North Hall coach Emi Hughes said. “This has been our goal all season.
“They’ve been driven ever since that loss to Westminster last season.”
As a result of holding a No. 2 seed in the championship bracket, North Hall is guaranteed to host its state semifinal match Wednesday against Pace Academy. Time of the match is still to be determined.
Trailing only briefly early in each of the first two sets, North Hall got it in gear in the quarterfinals with the great court communication that clearly had Savannah Arts Academy guessing how the Lady Trojans might strike next. Melissa DeVerter and Autumn Tucker both had a good touch all day and were forceful with returns to earn many of North Hall’s points.
However, thanks to the dependable setting of Lily Paschall, Tucker and DeVerter were also able to tap it over the net into the soft spots of Savannah Arts Academy’s defense.
According to DeVerter, knowing where each other is on the floor is a product of playing together for almost five years now. As a result of the non-stop attack in the quarterfinals, the Lady Trojans are still in the hunt for their first volleyball state championship.
“This is the best feeling in the world right now,” said Paschall, who has been a staple of North Hall’s program. “Now, we just have to get back to work the next couple days to prepare for the semifinals.”
While much of the communication on the court was a byproduct of knowing where each other will be in a given situation, Paschall said they’ll also call out a word or two to synchronize the plan of attack.
“I felt like we played pretty smooth today, but we still have a few things to work on,” said Hughes.
Trailing by a point early in the first set, North Hall went on to score eight of the next 10 with a strong attack. North Hall also benefitted from Savannah Arts Academy’s mental lapses, such as when a return went off the side of a player's closed fists.
Then, after a number of forceful returns, DeVerter tipped it right into an open spot in the defense to go up 19-9.
In the second set, it was more of the same as DeVerter followed a gentle return for a point with a spike to the back corner that went untouched to put the Lady Trojans ahead 11-2.
Savannah Arts Academy’s only rally came late in the final set when it closed a 10-point hole down to four.
North Hall scored its final point with an enthusiastic crowd on its feet cheering as Savannah Arts Academy’s setter was unable to get the ball over the net.
For the match, Paschall had 25 assists, 10 digs and three aces. DeVerter finished with 15 kills, four blocks, an ace and five digs, while Tucker had eight kills and 10 digs for the Lady Trojans.