North Hall has been here six years in a row, but the second round of the state volleyball playoffs is a first for Cherokee Bluff.
Both have a chance to earn a spot in the state quarterfinals.
Both in Class 3A, North Hall will host Windsor Forest on Tuesday in the Round of 16, while Cherokee Bluff has a match at Savannah Arts Academy.
“The coolest thing is that we’ve been able to peak at the right time,” Lady Bears coach Laura DeLaPerriere said. “I have a special group of kids on this team.”
Cherokee Bluff (19-19) punched its ticket to the next round by beating Sonarville, while North Hall swept Adairsville to open the postseason Oct. 19. Both matches were held at North Hall, after the GHSA allowed the Cherokee Bluff match to be moved from Savannah Arts, due to travel logistics.
North Hall coach Emi Hughes has a far more experienced group, this marking their 13th playoff match since 2016.
The Lady Trojans are paced by a trio of seniors on a roster with 7 of 12 players being seniors. Grace Hollifield is the biggest offensive weapon for the Lady Trojans (26-15), while Maci Gillespie is their fearless setter. Madison Brock is a consistent force at outside hitter for the Lady Trojans.
Area 7-3A champs North Hall enters today’s match having won five straight and 9 of its last 10. Cherokee Bluff split its two matches in the Area tournament to carry the No. 3 seed to state.
The Lady Bears tout one senior, Madi Phillips, who is a force at middle hitter and middle blocker.
Cherokee Bluff will have sophomore outside hitter Sage Sutulovich back on the floor, even though not yet 100 percent, after she missed the majority of the regular season with a Grade 4 fracture to her tibia. Sutulovich is the spark Cherokee Bluff needs to be competitive, her coach said.
“She (Sage) feels great and is confident,” DeLaPerriere said.
Cherokee Bluff has a good nucleus of underclassmen, paced by Finley Millwood and Camille Godfrey.
“Our camaraderie is great,” DeLaPerriere said. “In 10 years as a coach, this is the best I’ve had.”
North Hall’s coach said her program will keep to a familiar routine Tuesday for a home playoff match: players arrive in the gym after school, eat Chick-fil-A wraps for dinner and warmup an hour before the match.
The Lady Trojans coach has run a unique offense this year, utilizing two hitters and the rest of the players on defense.
Hughes said the turning point for her program this year came from a loss to Fannin County, North Hall’s first Area loss in three years.