James Auld has been the constant on the North Cobb sideline since he first took the reins of a volleyball program that struggled to hold its own among the county’s typical powers. Now, its Auld’s Lady Warriors who are the final ones standing, and they will be the ones competing for a state championship Saturday afternoon at Marietta.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
North Cobb’s volleyball team won arguably the biggest match in team history when it beat East Coweta 3-1 in Wednesday’s semifinal of the Class AAAAAA state tournament.
So, how did the Lady Warriors celebrate their momentous win?
“We took the day off from practice (Thursday),” North Cobb coach James Auld said. “We went and got some frozen yogurt.”
After three final four appearances in the past four years, Area 4AAAAAA runner-up North Cobb (43-13) will be heading into its first state final fresh and relaxed. The Lady Warriors will face Area 7AAAAAA champion North Gwinnett (38-10) for the title at Marietta on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“The girls were worn out and needed a break,” Auld said. “We played (last Saturday) and practiced hard during the week leading up to (Wednesday’s) match. It was emotional, and after we read the stories and saw the pictures and accepted all of the congratulations, we just took a breather to get ready for North Gwinnett.
“This is how we’ve prepared all season. We’ll practice a few days and then take a day off each week. Plus, at this point of the season, there isn’t a whole lot new to do. The girls will just get some touches and we’ll talk about North Gwinnett’s tendencies (today).”
Saturday will mark the second time North Cobb has faced North Gwinnett this season. The Lady Warriors lost 2-1 in their own Warrior Classic on Aug. 23.
North Gwinnett, reseeded as eighth of eight teams entering the quarterfinals, is on an eight-match winning streak.
“I have a lot of information on North Gwinnett,” Auld said. “I’ve watched film and we’ll have the girls ready. We’ll give them the game plan and the scouting reports (today) and get after it.
“We played them once before in August, so I’ve mostly been figuring out what they’re doing differently now. It’s hard to get a read on their potential, but they have two Division I-caliber athletes and a very good coach.”
Both teams have played exciting postseason matches to get this far.
North Gwinnett beat Kennesaw Mountain 3-1 in the first round and took down Douglas County 3-0 in the second round. The Lady Bulldogs then upset No. 1 seed Harrison in five sets before sweeping past Johns Creek in the semifinals.
North Cobb’s road to the final included a first-round sweep of Mountain View, followed by a surprisingly definitive win over four-time defending state champion Walton in the next round. The Lady Warriors then took down Brookwood 3-0 before beating East Coweta.
“We’re both not the same teams that faced each other back then,” Auld said. “It’s a neutral site and the match will be about which team can keep momentum going the longest.
Auld knows that much like North Cobb, North Gwinnett also hasn’t been in this position in recent years. Since neither team has an edge in experiencing an environment of this magnitude, he believes both teams will be fairly evenly matched.
“At least we’re not going up against somebody with a lot of experience playing in this type of match,” he said. “We’re both pretty equal there.
“I feel confident we’ve weathered some storms throughout the season and we’re prepared. I know the girls are excited and the school’s excited. Everybody’s embracing this experience, but the girls remain calm and they’re not downplaying things.”