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Back to the Elite 8! Cherokee Bluff crushes Southeast Bulloch in second round of volleyball playoffs
Up next, Lady Bears visit Morgan County in the state quarterfinals
Cherokee Bluff volleyball 2021
Cherokee Bluff's Makayla Brix (12) and Brandyn Peterson (7) guard the net against Southeast Bulloch in the second round of the Class 3A state tournament Saturday in Flowery Branch. Photo by Bill Murphy

Cherokee Bluff’s volleyball program has experienced a lot of success for such a young program. 

In Year 4, the Lady Bears are in midst of their third postseason appearance. 

This one has all the makings of being special. 

On Saturday, Cherokee Bluff breezed passed Southeast Bulloch in the second round, winning the best-of-five match 25-5, 25-13, 25-2 in Flowery Branch. 

With the win, the Area 7-3A champions are going back to the state quarterfinals for the second time in school history. 

“This is so exciting,” Cherokee Bluff senior outside hitter Sage Sutulovich said. “I feel like we can go all the way.”

At the beginning of the season, junior setter Maddy Levine said the program made the goal of making the state semifinals. 

Now, they’re one win away from making that happen. 

“This is really exciting,” Levine said. “I came in from a 7A school this year, and it’s been great to be with this group of friends.”

Up next, Cherokee Bluff will visit Morgan County in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday in Madison. It’ll be a rematch of a regular-season match that the Lady Bears lost. 

“I think it’s good for us because we know where they (Morgan County) struggle, but they also know where we struggle,” Sutulovich said. 

The location for the next match was a result of a coin toss, Lady Bears coach Laura DeLaPerriere said, but does not at all dampen their enthusiasm about making the next round. 

“Playing against Morgan County is going to be a fight,” Cherokee Bluff’s coach said. 

Sutulovich and Brandyn Peterson were two of the Lady Bears players who were on the floor when they made the first trip to the state quarterfinals in 2019. 

Now, these seniors have meshed with a younger bunch that is doing their part to keep the 2021 season alive. 

“Let me tell ya, the leadership we have on this team is great,” DeLaPerriere said. “We have a group of juniors that are really stepping up, too.”

Against Southeast Bulloch, the Lady Bears didn’t take any chances against a weaker opponent. 

Cherokee Bluff scored 13 of the first 14 points in front of a robust crowd of fans. 

For the day,  Levine had 20 assists and five aces, while Emma Staples contributed nine aces and seven kills. 

Sutulovich finished with 11 kills, one block, five assists, four kills and an ace. 

Also for the Lady Bears,  Abbi Hutchins had four digs and an assist, Olivia Owens chipped in three kills and Sierra Piland had one kill, one block and an assist. 

Despite a few mistakes in the second set, the Lady Bears returned to their dominant form in the third set. 

The end was pleasing to Cherokee Bluff’s coach who wanted to leave nothing to chance. 

Two years ago, the Lady Bears were the one who strung together a rally from two-sets down in the second round to beat Savannah Arts Academy. 

“I’ve told these girls, don’t worry about who is on the other side of the net,” the Lady Bears’ coach said. 

This season, Cherokee Bluff locked up the No. 1 seed to state with a thrilling win against North Hall in the championship for the 7-3A title. 

Since then, the Lady Bears have been riding the high of showing their superiority on the court. 

And now, they’re just two wins away from making it to the championship match. 

“We’ve definitely won when it counts the most,” Sutulovich said. 

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