Chloe Cook injured her ankle last week in a tournament at Woodward Academy and could be out until the quarterfinals of the state playoffs — if the Lady Raiders make it that far.
In the meantime, with Cook out, Walton has had to find other hitters to step up, and it did so to win its third straight area title Saturday afternoon at Milton.
A 26-24, 25-15, 25-11 victory over Woodstock for the championship capped a perfect tournament for the Lady Raiders.
Walton (29-7) had a few hiccups in the first set, but it got comfortable once it started running its offense.
Jessica Sloan, who made the all-area team, led the Lady Raiders with 12 kills, and Morgan Patterson added 10. Anouska Best, another member of the all-area team, finished with eight kills.
Brooke Landon and Leah Jackson each had five kills, and Celeste Fitzgerald dished out 40 assists.
“It’s been difficult with (Cook) out, but we’re working through that right now,” Walton libero Tori Ferguson said. “Hopefully (for the state tournament), we’ll be completely prepared.”
Etowah ended up as the area’s No. 3 seed after advancing to the finals of the winners’ bracket Thursday. A loss to Walton earlier Saturday put Etowah in the losers’ bracket, and Woodstock prevented a rematch with a
25-21, 23-25, 25-16 win.
Lassiter, the tournament’s No. 6 seed, upset Roswell in the losers’ bracket to secure a state playoff spot and end up as the area’s No. 4 seed after losing to Woodstock in the next round. The Lady Hornets went on to beat Milton for the fifth and final spot for the state playoffs.
Woodstock’s stellar defensive performance on the front and back rows during the first set gave Walton fits, causing the Lady Raiders to rush and make unforced errors. Woodstock led for most of the first set before Walton rallied.
With the score knotted at 24-all, Best delivered a first-ball kill to give the Lady Raiders their second set point opportunity, and Sloan came through with a smash to seal it.
Having played four straight matches with hardly a break prior to its best-of-five match against the Lady Raiders, Woodstock appeared more sluggish defensively than it did in the opening set.
Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders made adjustments on their end, and once they got their offense going, they assumed control of the match. A couple of early service runs in the second and third sets helped them build and sustain comfortable leads.
“We talked about having each other’s back,” Walton coach Suzanne Fitzgerald said. “When you know your team is committed to each other, you feel invincible, and that gave them a boost of confidence. Earlier, we struggled with some nerves, and it’s nice to know that your team works that hard for each other.”
Lassiter wasn’t at full strength Thursday in its straight-set loss to Milton in the first round, but it came back healthier Saturday in the losers’ bracket.
The Lady Trojans rebounded to beat Marietta before upsetting Roswell 25-18, 23-25, 25-20 for a state tournament berth.
Becca Ledford, who made the all-area team, had 11 digs, nine kills and 2½ blocks against Roswell. Middle blocker Kysa Huddleston had five kills, five aces and three blocks.
“It was our first chance to make the state tournament,” Lassiter coach Greg Hodge said. “If we win, we’re in. If not, we had an another opportunity, but you don’t want to wait.”
Kendal Smith, who was named the area’s player of the year, finished the day with 18 digs and 11 kills.
Marietta’s Bailey West was also named to the all-area team.