When it was all finished, Cherokee Bluff volleyball coach Laura DeLaPerriere described its experience in the Area 7-3A tournament as a roller coaster.
And for the Lady Bears, it turned out to be a pretty good ride.
Cherokee Bluff won all three matches on Day 2 of the tournament Thursday in Gainesville, including a thrilling victory against host North Hall in the finals (25-14, 15-25, 15-13).
With the victory, the Lady Bears will carry the No. 1 seed to the state tournament and have wrapped up their first Area championship in the program’s four year history.
“That was some hard matches we had to play,” Cherokee Bluff’s coach said. “North Hall made us earn every single point there in the finals.”
DeLaPerriere said the key to their win came with Cherokee Bluff athletics director Kenny Hill dropping by before the squad left campus in Flowery Branch to give them a motivational talk.
And, according to DeLaPerriere, Hill was right there with the rest of the Lady Bears fans when it was wrapped up with a celebration.
“I think it was good for the girls to hear from someone else before we played today,” she said.
The Lady Bears were able to avenge a nail-biter of a loss to the Lady Trojans on Day 1, dropping the second set after leading 24-17.
Coaches agreed before the start of the tournament to play a winner-take-all finals and not a true double-elimination event, North Hall athletics director Sam Borg said.
North Hall went into the finals unbeaten, including a Day 1 win against East Forsyth at second-day win against Lumpkin County (13-25, 25-20, 15-12).
However, Cherokee Bluff was not to be denied.
For the Lady Bears, senior outside hitter Sage Sutulovich was the catalyst to the win, finishing the day with 12 kills, three blocks, one ace and a dig.
“Sage grabbed the team and put them on her back,” DeLaPerriere said. “I’m very proud of her and all our seniors who get to enjoy this moment.”
Also for the Lady Bears, DeLaPerriere was thrilled with the performance of her middle hitters Grace-Blythe Cornett (21 assists, eight kills, seven digs, four blocks and four aces) and Madelyn Levine (35 assists, 12 digs and two aces).
On Day 2, Cherokee Bluff advanced with a win against White County (25-13, 25-21) and then Lumpkin County (25-12, 20-25, 15-12) to move into the championship.
Abbi Hutchins had 24 digs and three aces for the Lady Bears, while Emma Staples chipped in 18 kills, nine digs, five aces and two blocks.
Also for Cherokee Bluff, Sierra Piland had six blocks, four aces, two digs, two assists and a kill, while Brandyn Peterson had eight blocks and a kill.
Olivia Owens had four blocks, one kill and a dig for the Lady Bears.
Leading the way for North Hall was Lexie Martin with 30 assists, three aces, three kills and eight digs, while Claire Bowen had 14 kills and five blocks.
Also for the Lady Trojans, Gavyn Graber had seven kills and four aces, while Anna Kate Shoaf finished with 12 digs.
Sarah Davidson had seven kills and three blocks for North Hall, while Amelia Shoemaker chipped in eight kills and a block.
Up next, Cherokee Bluff and North Hall will each host first-round matches on Oct. 19.
Area 7-3A Tournament
Seeding to playoffs
1. Cherokee Bluff
2. North Hall
3. Lumpkin County
4. White County