Having their leading hitter on the floor gave the Lady Radiers a boost Monday night, especially in the fourth set when they broke open a tight match before winning 25-22, 23-25, 25-22, 25-11 over the Lady Hoyas at McEachern High School to seal their third consecutive state title and eighth overall.
It was Walton’s second straight win over Harrison in a state final after winning a five-setter in last year’s meeting.
“Our goal was to get back here and play our best volleyball,” Walton coach Suzanne Fitzgerald said. “We played tight at times but stepped up when we needed to.”
Cook didn’t perform like a player who had been out of action since the week before the Area 4AAAAAA tournament nearly a month ago. It was as if she had never missed a practice, finishing with 22 kills, eight digs and two blocks against the Lady Hoyas. Five of Cook’s kills and one of her blocks came in the fourth set alone.
Cook’s play stood out in one particular point early in the fourth set and it may have been the spark Walton (34-7) was looking for. It started when she dived on the floor to get a hand on a Harrison kill attempt and then recover in time to hit the winning smash. That point gave Walton an 8-4 lead that continued to grow and Walton cut down on the mistakes it made in the previous three sets.
“It was such a great relief when I was cleared,” Cook said. “I did feel like I played like my normal self and that was because my teammates were positive and encouraging. I think when all of us clicked in the fourth set, we knew (we would win).”
Walton also took advantage of some Harrison (49-7) miscues against its own aggressive serve in the fourth set.
The Lady Raiders got on a roll early when back-to-back serve receive errors by Harrison led to a 6-3 Walton lead. Lindsay Seagraves would go on to attack Harrison with her serve later in the fourth set, and it was a Seagraves ace followed by a Cook kill, that put Walton in control with a 13-5 lead.
Unlike the third set when Walton built a cushion and Harrison nearly rallied, Walton’s mid fourth-set burst prompted Harrison to use its timeouts early and the Lady Hoyas never recovered from the deficit.
The match ended on a serve-receive woe when the Lady Hoyas scooped up a Kate Schwartz serve in attempt to set up a first-ball kill. The ball sailed over the net instead and Anouska Best was there for the winning kill.
“Our serve-receive broke down,” Harrison coach Clay Taylor said. “We were struggling in that area and it deteriorated to a point where Walton was able to capitalize. We talked about being in the right positions and had to use our timeouts early just to give our girls a chance.”
Jessica Sloan was also solid up front with 13 kills and Leah Jackson and Morgan Patterson had six apiece.
During the first two sets, both teams would go through spurts of emotional jitters and playing solid volleyball.
Harrison took a 12-4 first set point with eight of them coming on Walton errors. The Lady Hoyas went into a funk, allowing Walton to get back into the set and steal it from them.
The second set was back and forth between the teams before Kodi Smith stepped it up on serve and helped Harrison even the match at a set apiece. Her five-point service run that gave Harrison a 20-15 lead consisted of three aces and two serve-receive errors by Walton, and it was a big enough lead to help Harrison win.
Smith went on to lead Harrison with eight kills and Caroline Ostman added seven. Andie Karmel added three kills a block and three block assists, and Kelly Scott dished out 21 assists and three block assists.