She had a harder time coming up with something Wednesday night after seeing her team trounce South Forsyth 25-15, 25-15, 25-9 in the Class AAAAAA state semifinals.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better night as far as execution and discipline,” Fitzgerald said. “South Forsyth is a great team that blocks well. Our passing was outstanding and it allowed us to move the ball around.”
With the victory, the top-seeded Lady Raiders (43-6) will contend for their fourth straight state championship Friday night against No. 2 Chattahoochee at Marietta High School. Chattahoochee needed five sets to beat its archrival, Johns Creek, in the other semifinal Wednesday.
It was a great passing night for Walton, with Celeste Fitzgerald totaling 43 assists in the three-set match.
Fitzgerald got all her hitters involved, with Jessica Sloan finishing at 20 kills and Lindsay Seagraves adding 10. Brooke Landon added eight kills, and middle blockers Leah Jackson and Ashley Miller combined for nine.
Several of Walton’s kills came off free balls caused by the Lady Raiders’ aggressive serving.
Walton didn’t let fourth-seeded South Forsyth (48-13) do much offensively.
The Lady Raiders held middle hitter Taylor Svehla to four kills after she finished with 13 against Harrison in Saturday’s quarterfinal. Hannah Shanley finished with eight kills and Rachel Croce added six.
“We were able to tell where they would hit and worked with each other on where to block,” Jackson said.
Early signs of a straight-set win started early in the first set, when Walton jumped out to a quick 9-1 lead on a pair of Sloan kills. The Lady Raiders kept their foot on the gas for the remainder of the first set, not allowing South Forsyth to get within seven points.
Even after losing the first set decisively, the Lady War Eagles didn’t panic. They had lost the first set in their match with Harrison before coming back to win in five.
Early in the second set, South Forsyth made defensive adjustments, and Svehla was in on a pair of block-assists to give the Lady War Eagles a 3-1 lead. Suzanne Fitzgerald said adjusted by getting Walton’s rightside hitters involved, and the Lady Raiders quickly erased the deficit.
The teams played on even terms in the second set until it was 12-all.
Celeste Fitzgerald opened a three-point service run on back-to-back Sloan kills that gave Walton a four-point lead. Sloan followed with a four-point service run to open a comfortable 21-13 lead.
Arguably the point that turned the tide in Walton’s favor came during Sloan’s service run. The teams were engaged in a lengthy rally with both Sloan and Fitzgerald keeping the point alive on a pair of digs before Walton managed to go on the offensive and finishing it off with a Sloan kill.
The Lady Raiders were dominant from that point on and came out a stronger team following the 10-minute break at the conclusion of the second set.
During the third set, the Lady Raiders were moving the ball around so effectively that it pushed South Forsyth into making mistakes. They also changed up their serving, making the Lady War Eagles struggle on serve-receive.
Three straight kills by Seagraves put Walton in front 15-5 in the third set. A few points later, Dalaney Hans served back-to-back aces to give Walton match point at 24-7.
“We motivated each other as a whole, and we had to come out against this team and finish strong,” junior libero Ashley Dean said. “It feels good to win our last home game for the seniors.”