But upon further review from the officials, they ruled that a Pace Academy player had touched the ball before it sailed out of bounds.
Had Warner been charged with an error on the play, the score would have been 10-all. Instead, the Lady Wolverines kept serving with a 12-10 lead and added momentum they used to stretch the lead and eventually win 25-10, 25-21, 25-16.
“When you get a big kill off their block, that tends to get a team going,” Walker coach Karen Arndt said. “We weren’t sure if the ball was out or not, but it wasn’t, and it put us back on serve.”
Warner came through with another kill on the very next point — this one was clean — to extend Walker’s lead to three points. And though Pace fought back to cut Walker’s lead to 15-14, that would be the closest the Lady Knights would get. The Lady Wolverines responded with a five-point service run to break the set open and take a 21-14 advantage.
Walker kept Pace at bay by ending the match on a three-point service run by Anna Chocallo.
Gracie Yarborough hit a kill for the first point, Chocallo served an ace that landed in the middle of the floor for match point and Sasha Fazylov clinched it with her eighth kill of the match.
“It’s kind of a relief to get this first one behind us,” said Warner, who led Walker with 19 kills. “But we’ve got a long journey ahead of us and hope that we can win state this year.”
That quest to get back to the state finals — where Walker lost a year ago — will continue Tuesday with a second-round visit by Savannah Country Day.
In the first set, Walker took advantage of 10 unforced errors and three service errors by Pace. A seven-point service run by Chocallo opened up a 14-5 lead, and that was the turning point.
But things played out differently in the second set. Pace cut its unforced errors in half and served only one fault, making Walker earn most of its points. The Lady Knights, who built a 10-7 second set lead, also served more aggressively and were more efficient on the back row.
“We knew they were well-coached, and we needed to have better ball control (in the second set),” Arndt said. “They made a lot of hitting errors in the first set, but made us earn our points in the second, and that was critical.”
Once it was 20-all in the second set, Walker’s offense took over.
Warner crushed back-to-back kills on Emma Graham’s serve to force a timeout by Pace. Fazylov kept the service run alive with a kill to give the Lady Wolverines a 23-20 lead, and Warner wrapped up the second set three points later with a kill.
“We got out slow in the second set, but picked it up in the end, and it worked out,” Warner said.
Erin Leavell finished with 22 assists for Walker, while Holland Martin added 12.