When Walton took the court against Etowah for the best-of-five final, one of its strategies was to throw the Lady Eagles’ blockers off balance by getting several hitters involved. That strategy proved effective as the Lady Raiders swept Etowah (25-12, 25-18, 25-18) to secure their second straight area title.
The Lady Raiders will host the No. 4 seed from 4AAAAA in the first round Thursday. Lassiter, which settled for the No. 3 seed after its loss to Etowah will begin its postseason run at 4AAAAA’s No. 2 seed.
Walton yielded just one solo block to Etowah the entire match after the Lady Eagles mustered 12 block assists and two solos in their latest victory over Lassiter.
Michigan commitment Kelly Murphy changed the pace of her kills to throw off Etowah blockers before finishing the match with 19. Katherine Plessy chipped in with eight kills. Chloe Cook added seven. Middle hitter Anouska Best also got involved offensively with six kills while Jessica Sloan added three.
And it was Tori Ferguson who set up the majority of Walton’s offensive plays with 36 assists.
“Tori did a great job moving the ball around,” Walton coach Suzanne Fitzgerald said. “She ran the back row and became another weapon. She made us unpredictable and got one-on-one matchups (with Etowah’s hitters).”
Walton also used its serve as a weapon, combining for eight aces. Defensively, libero Morgan Smith led with 10 digs and Murphy contributed with six when she wasn’t playing up front.
Etowah used a series of three-point runs in the first set to pull away while giving up just two service points to Etowah. Back-to-back kills by Murphy gave the Lady Raiders their largest lead at 23-11 before closing the set.
The Lady Eagles were at their best during the opening stages of the second set when a combination of kills and Walton miscues gave them a 6-3 edge. Then Murphy bailed Walton out with four straight kills to give her team the lead.
Etowah regained the lead two more times in the second set before Walton orchestrated a seven-point service run by Murphy to take a 15-9 lead. Two kills by Best and back-to-back aces by Murphy highlighted the run, and Etowah never got within four points.
Leading 14-10 in the third set, Walton used a five-point service run to break the game open. Murphy’s kill on a free ball gave the Lady Raiders an insurmountable lead.
“Walton is a talented team and they have hitter after hitter coming after you,” Etowah coach Kim Robertson said. “If you make a mistake, they are going to capitalize on it.”
n It was a tough Saturday for the Lady Trojans, losing in the winner’s bracket semifinals 25-12, 25-21 to Walton before dropping a 26-24, 25-23 decision to Etowah to become he region’s No. 3.
Despite getting blocked continuously by Etowah in the opening set — the Lady Eagles had 10 block assists and two solos in the first set alone — Lassiter still played on even terms with Etowah and had a set point taken away on an Etowah block.
Even though Lassiter made second set adjustments, a few miscues put the Lady Trojans behind early before tying at 15-all on a Becca Arndt kill.
The teams battled on even terms before Etowah pulled away at 23-all. A Lassiter error gave Etowah its first and only match point, which was converted on a combined block.
April Davis led Lassiter with seven kills against Etowah. Arndt added six and Carly Crowder finished with five.