Libero Tori Ferguson won 15 points on serve, and her service runs made a difference in both the first and third sets as the Lady Raiders swept the Lady Warriors 25-13, 25-16, 25-18 at Chattahoochee High School to advance to the state finals for the third straight year.
“I thought we served really well, and that kept North Cobb out of sync,” Walton coach Suzanne Fitzgerald said. “When North Cobb was in sync, they put the ball down.”
Walton (33-7) will next face Harrison in a rematch of last year’s state championship match — a five-set duel won by the Lady Raiders — Monday night at McEachern High School.
North Cobb (35-15) finished as a state semifinalist for the second straight year — an accomplishment made with just one senior and four underclassmen starters.
The Lady Warriors couldn’t bounce back against Walton on Wednesday, after coming from behind to beat Etowah and Mill Creek in earlier rounds of the state playoffs. Walton used its solid serving to take commanding leads in the first and second sets, making it near impossible for North Cobb to fight back.
“What good teams do is reveal weaknesses, and we’ve been good at hiding ours,” North Cobb coach James Auld said. “When you go up against a team with 10 solid players, (our weaknesses) will come out.”
Youth and a lack of experience also played a part in North Cobb not being able to keep up with Walton in the first two sets, but the Lady Warriors were more relaxed in the third set and had a 15-13 advantage at one point.
But the third-set momentum turned to Walton’s side as soon as Ferguson took serve with Walton leading 17-16. With Ferguson pounding serves that barely cleared the net, she set up a combination of North Cobb errors and routine offensive plays for Walton, and she kept serving until North Cobb finally stopped her run with the Lady Raiders ahead 24-17.
Lindsay Seagraves and Morgan Patterson both had kills during the run for Walton, and Ferguson served an ace that rolled over the net cord and dropped on North Cobb’s side of the floor. Seagraves and Anouska Best also combined for a block winner during the run.
“We just ran into a wall against Walton, and it was hard to adjust,” Auld said.
Earlier in the third set, the Lady Warriors stayed in it by serving more aggressively. They really came to life on Abby Miller’s serve earlier in the set, when a Shauntell Luke kill, followed by back-to-back aces by Miller, gave North Cobb a 13-10 lead.
But Walton scrapped its way back and tied it at 15-all on a Jessica Sloan ace.
Ferguson also dictated serve late in the first set when a four-point run gave the Lady Raiders a 24-11 lead. Seagraves, Sloan and Patterson had kills during the run, and Ferguson contributed with an ace for set point.
In the second set, it was Seagraves and Kate Schwartz who broke it open with her serves. Seagraves won five straight points to give Walton an early 6-1 lead. Shortly after, Schwartz took over and produced an eight-point run to put Walton in front 17-4.
Walton’s strong serving allowed setter Celeste Fitzgerald to share the ball with different hitters, and she finished with 30 assists. Sloan led Walton with 10 kills, Seagraves had eight and Patterson finished with seven. The Lady Raiders also had a combined 10 block-assists.
For North Cobb, Savanna Gonzales finished with seven kills, and Luke added five in her final game as a Lady Warrior. Taylor Parrish finished with 20 assists, and Kaitlyn Woodruff had three solo blocks and two block-assists.