On Thursday, the top-ranked Lady Wolverines defeated North Cobb Christian in straight sets
(25-17, 25-18, 25-18) to earn the Area 3A title on their own court.
However, the celebration after the match wasn’t one of great jubilation. Walker’s players high-fived one another, shared a few smiles and headed for the exit of the Coles Athletic Center.
It was clear that, while the area championship is important, the Lady Wolverines are looking for far more.
“We’re really hoping for (the) state (title) — fingers crossed,” senior Paige Warner said. “I don’t really want to say anything more in fear of jinxing it. Last year, we got knocked out by Holy Innocents’, and that was a really big defeat (in the second round). … This year, we hope to take it to the finals.”
From the onset of Thursday’s final, it was clear that Walker’s offense ran through Warner. She accounted for 11 of the team’s points, her teammates finished with eight and the other six were accounted for by serving or return errors.
“(Warner’s) leadership on the court is incredible,” Walker coach Karen Arndt said. “She’s very competitive and has a stoic, let’s-get-it-done attitude. We have a young team, and she’s the one that keeps everybody focused and in play.”
Standing 6 feet, 1¼ inches tall, it’s not hard to spot Warner on the floor. At the net, she has the ability to send back the opponents’ attacks and lace the ball toward the other end of the floor for kills.
Despite her success at Walker, Warner doesn’t have an interest in playing volleyball at the next level, making these next matches at the state tournament likely her last as a competitive volleyball player.
She does, however, express how much fun she has when the game comes into her hands.
“I just want to hit the ball,” she said. “I like hitting. I really find it fun. That’s what I contribute to the team, and that’s what I want to help with.
“I do think about where I want to hit (the ball). Our libero, Anna Chocallo, calls out where she sees openings and things, and that’s always very helpful.”
There weren’t many times when Warner wasn’t on the floor Thursday, but when she wasn’t, there was a clear difference on the scoreboard.
In the second set, Warner came off the floor with Walker leading 15-4. She didn’t return until North Cobb Christian had closed the score to within 17-12.
When Warner did return, the Lady Wolverines stopped the Lady Eagles’ run and finished off a 25-18 victory.
In the third set, North Cobb Christian outscored Walker 9-6, though the Lady Wolverines ultimately won with another 25-18 margin.
Arndt said Warner makes a “huge” difference when she’s on the floor.
“When she’s out there on the floor, we know that we have her as an option,” Arndt said. “She sets it up, so that (the opponent) tries to cover her. Then, we can push it out to either side, since she is just as much attaching the ball, and putting the ball down. Then, she can become a decoy for a couple of plays and make them misread and throw their defense off.
“She’s a monster.”
For the match, Warner finished with 17 kills — or one less than the rest of her teammates combined. She also had four blocks and one ace.
But Warner and Arndt understand that there’s more to winning volleyball matches than the play of an individual — no matter how dominant that one player might be.
This season, Walker has had the phrase “Tally Mo” on the backs of its shirts, and they’ve brought a stuffed turtle with the same name to each match. The phrase is a combination of the British phrase “tally-ho” — a hunting cry that is also used by the U.S. Air Force to signal that an enemy plane has been spotted — and momentum, something Walker hopes will carry them through Nov. 3, when the state championship is decided at Marietta High School.
After winning the area title, Walker assembled on the floor in the shape of a turtle.
“We had this idea that we were like turtles,” Warner said. “And we could only look forward and not look back.”