The Lady Warriors did outlast their opponent and won another five-set marathon — 13-25, 25-14, 20-25, 27-25, 15-10 — in the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals.
North Cobb had to stave off elimination in its opening-round match against Etowah last week when it trailed 13-10 in the fifth set before rallying for victory.
Now, the Lady Warriors (35-14) are back in the state semifinals for a second-straight season, despite graduating four starters and three top hitters from last year’s team. They will have to be scrappy once again when they face two-time defending champion Walton in Wednesday’s semifinal at Chattahoochee High School.
North Cobb’s only senior, Shauntell Luke, said after the match that it took a team effort on the front and back rows to beat a Mill Creek team that had seven seniors.
Freshman setter Taylor Parrish surpassed 1,000 assists on the year, finishing with 42 against Mill Creek (43-11). Savanna Gonzales led with 13 kills and came up big in the fifth set, Abby Miller added 11 and Luke had 10.
North Cobb also combined for 13 aces, three solo blocks and eight block-assists.
“The front of our practice shirts say ‘relentless,’” Auld said. “The back of our shirts say ‘next point.’”
North Cobb probably couldn’t come up with a better word than relentless to describe its fourth-set performance, once the score was tied 24-all. The Lady Warriors had just squandered four set points while going against Mill Creek’s top server, Kaitlyn Lattimer, and 6-foot-4 middle blocker Emily Wylie at the net.
Wylie had just delivered a kill to tie it after Gonzales made the mistake of playing it safe on her attack, and the Lady Hawks appeared to have the momentum, needing just two points to win the match.
But North Cobb found a way to step up on the next point as Miller hit a kill on the first pass to get the sideout. And when Miller went for an aggressive serve that landed wide-right, the Lady Warriors stepped up again and got their sixth set point opportunity on a Gonzales kill.
That’s when North Cobb turned it over to its lone senior, and Luke sent the match to a fifth set with an ace.
“We live and die by our only senior,” Auld said. “When she steps up, we can win. She is the heart and soul of our team and just refuses to allow her senior season to end.”
North Cobb picked the right time to be disciplined — early in the fifth set. The Lady Warriors led the entire set, but they had to earn every point.
Mill Creek didn’t make an unforced error until Emily Rose hit an attack wide to put North Cobb ahead 11-7. The Lady Warriors either had to hit a kill or finish off a block to win their first 10 points, and many of their points in the fifth set came on finishing long rallies.
“We came out with a lot of energy (in the fifth set),” said Gonzales, who smacked four kills in the fifth set. “We had to focus a lot on ball control and stay aggressive. We also had to hit our spots on serve.”
Mill Creek made one late push to cut the North Cobb lead to 12-10, prompting Auld to call a timeout. In the huddle, he told his players to “relax, start over and pretend like the score is 0-0.”
North Cobb didn’t lose another point after the timeout.
Mill Creek hit a service error to give the ball back to North Cobb. Luke came through with a kill to end a long point and give the Lady Warriors match point.
They converted on their first try when Mill Creek made a hitting error.
“I so much didn’t expect this — to go back to the final four,” an excited Luke said after the match.