Eagles Landing Christian Academy made an improbable rally by scoring the final six points in the deciding game to win Saturday’s Class AA/A state championship in volleyball.
After both teams had won two games each, Greater Atlanta Christian led 13-9 in the deciding game and needed to score only two more points to win the state title. However, ECLA outside hitter Mara Green had one of the most clutch performances in tournament history, scoring six straight points to reverse her team’s fortunes.
ECLA won 15-13, claiming the first state championship in volleyball for any Henry County school.
“At the end, Mara just kind of took over and just refused to lose,” ECLA coach Jim Barlow said. “I’m biased, but I think she’s the best player I’ve seen in Georgia in the last 5-6 years.”
The 6-foot-1 Green (committed to Clemson) finished with 29 kills and 13 blocks, while Kodi Patterson had 39 assists for ECLA (37-7). GAC (41-5) was led by Dede Bohannon (Georgia State) with 25 kills, Catherin Chason (Tennessee-Chattanooga) with 25 digs, and Rachel Waldrop with 44 assists.
“I’ve been sitting here wondering how did that happen? To be up 13-9 and to lose …”GAC coach Kristy Shelton said. “It was just one of those things. We got tight and it was uncharacteristic of us. We didn’t play the way we wanted to play. However, I can’t take anything away from ECLA. They came at us with everything they had. But I’m proud of my girls. They fought hard.”
Sandy Creek won a state title for the second time in four years, defeating St. Pius 3-0 for the Class AAA championship.
“I thought it was a perfect ending to a pretty good season for a bunch of outstanding young ladies,” Sandy Creek coach Paul Collins said. “I just think we had a lot more weapons than the other team.”
Kayla Weller had 30 assists, while Akelia Lain (committed to North Florida) had 10 kills and Kalah Jones (Clemson) had 8 kills for Sandy Creek (44-7).
Sandy Creek finished the season on a 15-game winning streak, and was one of only two Georgia teams to beat Class AAAA champion Pope this year.
Pope won a state championship for the third straight year, beating Whitewater 3-1 for the Class AAAA title.
“Man, it’s unbelievable,” Pope coach Bryan Jones said. “There are several girls on the team this year that have been on the team since they were freshmen, and they just stepped up big.”
Pope’s Mary Hannah Arrington (committed to Auburn) had 23 kills and 11 digs, while Wimberly Wilson (Georgia Tech) finished with 22 digs. Katie Bange (Middle Tennessee St.) also had 23 kills for Pope (44-2).
Walton claimed back-to-back Class AAAAA championships after a narrow 3-2 win over Harrison.
“I am more emotional up about it this year than last year,” Walton coach Suzanne Fitzgerald said. “Everybody is gunning for you all year long, and they have nothing to lose. I think we handled the pressures well, and sometimes not so well. Those girls fought and did what they were supposed to do. It feels incredible to win back-to-back championships.”
Walton’s Kelly Murphy had 23 kills, Tori Ferguson finished with 30 assists, and Morgan Smith had 15 digs. Harrison was led by Alexis Ryan with 15 kills, Tyra Montour with 10 kills, Kelly Scott with 30 assists and Maggie Williamson with 17 digs.
“Our kids, especially our seniors, really stepped up all season long,” Harrison coach Clay Taylor said. “This group of seniors was in the seventh or eighth grade when we last won in 2006. They were in the stands. When they came in as freshmen, they said ‘We’re going to win state’ and they got as close as they could. They gave it everything they had.”