By Craig Sager II
Quarterfinals gauntlet awaits top class
Walton earned the No. 1 seed in Class AAAAAA and will host No. 8 Lassiter for a spot in the semifinals. These two region-rivals have already faced twice in the month of October. Walton swept the Trojans 2-0 (25-16, 25-16) on October 1st, and on October 10th the Raiders dominated again with a (25-16, 25-7) sweep. The winner of Walton-Lassiter will face the team that survives No. 5 Harrison at No. 4 South Forsyth.
Harrison fell to Walton in the state championship for the second-straight season last year and a win over South Forsyth would get the Hoyas a chance to avenge the recent heartbreaks against the Raiders. South Forsyth has already topped the Hoyas twice this season. In August, Harrison took the match 2-1 (25-15, 22-25, 15-12), but South Forsyth grabbed both matches in September. The War Eagles’ swept Harrison on September 7th (25-21, 25-21) and took a best of three the following week (25-23, 18-25, 15-6).
No. 6 seeded North Cobb at No. 3 seeded Johns Creek is another matchup that saw a split during the regular season. North Cobb won the first meeting 2-0 (25-23, 27-25), but Johns Creek flipped the script 10 days later and pulled off a 2-0 (25-20, 25-20) sweep of the Warriors. Johns Creek topped North Gwinnett on the road in the second round of the playoffs to reach the Elite 8, while North Cobb enjoyed home court against Etowah to earn its spot. This will be North Cobb’s first road game of the playoffs and the winner of this matchup will take on the winner of No. 7 Roswell at No. 2 Chattahoochee.
Chattahoochee and Roswell faced during the regular season and the Cougars topped Roswell 2-1 (25-20, 25-21, 25-18). Chattahoochee enters the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in all six classifications and has proven to be able to win split-set matches when needed. The Cougars have not needed the extra sets so far, and swept Woodstock and Newnan in the first and second round. The Hornets appear to be playing their best ball also, and swept South Gwinnett on the road before traveling to Brookwood to sweep the No. 1 seeded Broncos on the road.
Streaks will end in quarterfinals
No. 1 seed McIntosh has not lost to a Class AAAAA school all season and will host No. 8 Greenbrier for a chance to advance to the semifinals. Greenbrier comes off of a gutsy 3-2 win over Northside-Columbus in the second round and has won seven-straight matches. The McIntosh-Greenbrier winner faces the winner of No. 5 Northgate at No. 4 Whitewater.
Defending Class AAAAA State Champion Whitewater has topped Northgate two times in the past two weeks. On Oct. 10 the Wildcats won 2-1 (21-25, 25-18, 25-21) and two days later 2-1 (25-18, 15-25, 25-21). The close scores of the last two meetings should provide the Vikings with confidence as they face their familiar and talented region-rivals in the most meaningful game yet.
No. 6 Apalachee at No. 3 Dunwoody sets up a very intriguing matchup. Dunwoody established itself late in the season when it topped Lakeside, DeKalb twice in one day to win the Area-6 Championship. The Wildcats have continued riding their momentum and their luxury of home court late into these playoffs. In Dunwoody’s first two home matches this postseason it swept Warner Robins (3-0) and Hiram (3-0) and its current six-game winning streak marks the longest streak of the season.
Apalachee has won six-straight games also, but there has been more turbulence along the way. The last five Apalachee wins have come in split-sets, including an epic 3-2 win over North Springs in the second round. In this battle of Class AAAAA Cinderella’s, the winning Wildcats will face the survivor of No. 7 Glynn Academy at No. 2 Sequoyah for a spot in the finals.
The Chiefs and Glynn Academy have not faced this season, but both come into the matchup with long winning streaks. Sequoyah’s 28-straight wins marks the longest in the state and it faces a Terrors team that has a 12-game winning-streak of its own heading in. Sequoyah had to battle past a difficult Starr’s Mill team 3-1 in the second round to reach the Elite 8 and Glynn Academy escaped a 3-2 five-set first round match with Northview before sweeping Lakeside, DeKalb in the second round.
Columbus could see Patriots in the semis
Two-time defending state champion Sandy Creek (2012 Class AAAA, 2011 Class AAA) earned the No. 4 seed in the Elite 8 and will host No. 5 Carrollton . 6-foot-1 senior Sydney Wilson looks for her third state championship as she leads the Patriots with 429 kills on the season. Sophomore Alexis Broadwater is Sandy Creek’s assist leader with 764 on the season. Carrollton has plenty of confidence heading into the match and comes off a 3-2 road-win over No. 1 seeded Heritage, Catoosa in the second round of the state playoffs. The winner of Carrollton-Sandy Creek will face the winner of No. 8 Chestatee at No. 1 Columbus.
Columbus lost to Sandy Creek in the title game last year and last won a state championship in 2007 (Class AAA). The Blue Devils swept Gilmer and Chamblee in the first and second round, and a win over Chestatee would pin them against Sandy Creek, a team they have beat three times this season. Chestatee topped Jonesboro 3-1 in the opening round and comes off an impressive 3-1 win over a solid South Effingham team.
No. 6 Walnut Grove at No. 3 River Ridge will be another showdown. The Knights are 37-10 on the season and Walnut Grove has earned its spot in the Elite 8 this season. The Warriors topped No. 8 seed Chestatee each of the three times they faced this season and swept Dutchtown and Statesboro in the opening two rounds. Both teams are yet to drop a set in the playoffs and the winner will face the victor of No. 7 Locust Grove at No. 2 Marist.
Locust Grove won the Area-4 championship this year and swept Madison County and Perry in the first and second round as a No. 1 seed. Marist comes off an Area-5 championship and a pair of sweeps over West Laurens and Southeast Whitfield in the first two rounds.