Daily Dive: Breaking down the volleyball state finals by matchup

Walton and North Cobb split their two previous matchups this season with North Cobb coming away with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-15) win on Sept. 19 and Walton rallying back from an 0-2 deficit to win a five-set thriller (21-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-17, 15-11) in the region tournament on Oct. 12. Walton’s victory snapped North Cobb’s 18-match win-streak and gave the Raiders the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The 15-time state champions dropped just one set through the first four rounds of the playoffs and North Cobb has also reached the finals with just one dropped set. After falling in last year’s final four, Walton has succeeded in reaching its 11th final in the last 14 seasons. Walton senior Sophia Henry posted a season-high 22 kills in the Raiders’ 3-2 win over North Cobb and has racked up 64 kills in the playoffs. North Cobb’s 6-foot senior Nikol Antova had a team-high 19 kills in the Warriors’ last showdown with Walton and has posted 61 kills during the playoffs.


Defending state champion Pope sits one match away from winning its sixth all-time state title and will face an Alpharetta team that is searching for its second all-time championship after earning the crown for the first time in 2020. Alpharetta defeated Pope 3-0 on Sept. 21 in what was part of a 32-game winning streak and the Greyhounds took the rematch 3-1 on Oct. 14 to earn the No. 1 seed. The only other losses by Pope (39-3) and Alpharetta (37-3) occurred outside of the Class 6A field and Pope has swept its playoff opponents, while Alpharetta has dropped just one set to North Forsyth in the Sweet 16. In the semifinals, Cooper Abney led Pope with 38 assists and 10 digs in the 3-0 win over Blessed Trinity. Alpharetta cruised past St. Pius (25-12, 25-16, 25-19) in the semifinals and senior Logan Wiley (17) and junior Brook Boyes (13) combined for 30 of the team’s 49 kills, while Abigail Li notched 40 assists.


McIntosh is coming off a dramatic five-set semifinal victory over Kell (25-22, 24-26, 25-21, 18-25, 19-17) that proved to be one of the most competitive matches in this year’s playoffs. Vanessa Washington finished with 18 kills, Taylor Simmons had 16, Hayley Laskowski finished with 11 and Riley Milner had 10. Evie Buffington had 39 digs, while Mary Babcock finished with 34 assists and 21 digs. Now, the Chiefs will try to win their seventh all-time state title and first since 2020 when the team won a fourth-straight crown. Greater Atlanta Christian earned the No. 1 seed with a win over Kell in the region championship and is one win away from its third-straight state title. Last year, the Spartans defeated McIntosh 3-2 in the semifinals before topping Chattahoochee for the title. On Saturday, GAC once again won a five-set semifinal against Dalton and two-time Gwinnett Super Six selection Gracie Rose scored the winning point. The 6-foot-1 Rose surpassed 1,500 career kills in the Spartans’ region championship victory.


Defending state champion Pace Academy will square off with Area 5 rival Lovett for a chance to win its seventh all-time title. The Lions sit one match away from the program’s second championship and first since 2012. Pace Academy took both matches against Lovett this season, including a 3-0 sweep for the region title on Oct. 12. The first meeting produced a 2-0 sweep that Pace Academy took 25-19, 30-28 and the region championship match was a 25-20, 26-24, 25-21 sweep. Pace Academy’s Ellie Siskin (16), Grace Agolli (11) and Lawson Monroe (11) combined for 38 of the Knights’ 46 kills, while Lovett’s Kennedy Campbell posted a career-high 18 total blocks. Campbell’s presence will be key in thwarting Pace Academy’s firepower and the 6-foot-1 senior also contributed 10 kills in the Lions’ 3-0 win over Westminster in the semifinals—marking the third-straight match with double-digit kills. Teammate and UGA-commit Emma Duffield had a team-high 16 kills in the semifinals and a season-high 19 kills in the 3-1 semifinal win over Trinity Christian.


The battle for Class 3A will see Oconee County attempt to win its first-ever volleyball state title and Sandy Creek attempt to snap a championship drought that spans back to 2012 when the Patriots won their third all-time title. Saturday’s final will be a rematch of Sandy Creek’s 2-0 win over the Warriors back on Aug. 17. In that match, Sandy Creek scored a 25-20 win in the opening set before piling on a 25-16 win in the second set. Junior Asia Harvey led Sandy Creek with 10 kills, while junior Nina Atkins notched 20 of the team’s 21 assists. Oconee County was led by Isabel Miller (6) and Bailey Bartlett (4), who combined for 10 of the team’s 15 kills and Olivia Miller provided a game-high three blocks. Oconee County’s only two losses within Class 3A this season came to the Patriots and Morgan County, which Oconee County defeated 3-1 in the quarterfinals before its 3-1 win over Hart County in the semifinals. Sandy Creek topped Hebron Christian 3-0 in the semifinals (26-24, 28-26, 25-16) and has no losses within Class 3A this season.


Two-time defending state champion Mt. Paran and Landmark Christian both have an opportunity to capture their program’s fourth all-time state crown this weekend. Mt. Paran is riding a 13-match win-streak into the finals and Landmark Christian is carrying a 16-match win-streak into the championship. The last match that Landmark Christian lost to an in-state opponent was to Mt. Paran in tournament play on Aug. 19 (19-25, 25-22). Mt. Paran senior Sarah Schwartz came out big in the victory with a game-high 13 kills. Schwartz, who has 98 career goals as a soccer standout, already has tallied 62 kills in this year’s playoffs. Mt. Paran’s lineup also features senior setter Kaitlyn Moran, who has averaged 38 assists per match during the playoffs. Landmark Christian’s Destiny McKenzie (16), Lillian Campbell (11) and sophomore Laila Amos (10) combined for 37 of the Eagles’ 50 team kills in their 3-1 semifinal victory over Savannah Arts. Landmark Christian senior Madelyne Tanner had a playoff-high 39 assists in the semifinal victory.


Area 6 rivals Mt. Pisgah and Whitefield Academy will battle for the Class A title and meet for the third time this season. Mt. Pisgah won both previous meetings in the regular season—scoring a 2-0 win on Aug. 29 and a 3-0 win on Oct. 12 to earn the No. 1 seed. Now, both the Patriots and Wolfpack will meet again with an opportunity to win their first-ever state titles. Mt. Pisgah senior Lane Kruse led the Patriots with 16 kills in their 3-0 semifinal win over Mt. Bethel and junior Adrianna Figurilli finished with six kills. This duo combined for 22 of Mt. Pisgah’s 39 kills in their most recent win over Whitfield Academy. Prior to this season, Whitefield Academy had never won a playoff game prior to this year’s run to the finals and the Wolfpack are playing with plenty of confidence after a 3-1win Area 6 rival Mount Vernon in the semifinals. Elizabeth Cella and Kayden Bentley each had 13 kills and two aces, while Joelle Walker had four aces to lead the way for Whitefield.


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