With Walker up a set and clinging to a three-point lead, Arndt needed Graham to serve aggressively.
Graham did that, giving the top-seeded Lady Wolverines the service run they needed to pull away from the second-seeded Lady Eagles and win 25-13, 25-17 to advance to the championship round of the double-elimination tournament.
After North Cobb Christian (20-8) struggled with unforced errors in the first set, it served better and made better passes in the second set while often attacking Walker (30-7) from the back row. North Cobb Christian’s improved play allowed it to be in the driver’s seat for most of the second set.
Although the Lady Wolverines didn’t take their first lead until Paige Warner’s kill put them ahead 14-13, North Cobb Christian was very much into the match, until Graham served with Walker leading 19-16.
Graham put pace on her serves and moved the ball around to confuse the Lady Eagles, who didn’t get a sideout until Walker had already built a 24-16 lead. Most of Graham’s serves created free balls, allowing Walker to run its offense effectively, and the Lady Wolverines won five straight points — three via kills — on her serve.
“That was huge because we needed to have (Graham) come in and make aggressive serves,” Arndt said. “We talked to her about it and said, ‘Go in and make some aggressive serves to throw them out of their offense,’ and that’s what she did. She had great serves, and they couldn’t follow her at all.”
Sisters Paige and Brooke Warner both led Walker with eight kills apiece against North Cobb Christian, with Brooke Warner adding 15 assists. Sasha Fazylov added seven kills and Brielle Bowerman had three.
Katelyn Dobbs and Alison Hamilton each had five kills to lead North Cobb Christian, and Carleen Porter added 15 assists.
With the loss, the Lady Eagles will face either Mount Paran Christian or Gordon Lee in Thursday’s losers’ bracket final for another chance at Walker in the tournament championship.
North Cobb Christian was at its best early in the second set after making its adjustments. The Lady Eagles jumped out early on Dobbs’ serve, taking a 5-1 lead. Although Walker gradually worked its way back into the second set, it stood its ground until halfway through.
“They were definitely talking and working together more cohesively than they were in the first game,” North Cobb Christian coach Cindy Rich said. “The communication was huge and weren’t making the unforced errors at often. Then, we missed a couple of serve-receive points, and missed our sideout serves, which hurt us.”
Walker beat Darlington 25-21, 25-16 in the semifinal earlier Tuesday, ensuring a spot in the Class A state playoffs. North Cobb Christian advanced with a 25-17, 25-11 victory over Whitefield Academy.
After fourth-seeded Mount Paran lost to Darlington 25-27, 25-21, 25-9 to open the tournament, it bounced back in the losers’ bracket to beat Whitefield 26-24, 25-18 for a state playoff spot.
Mount Paran’s Caroline Cook came up big against Whitefield with nine kills and two blocks. Sydney Murphy finished with 18 assists and two aces.
Errors ended up costing Whitefield in its back-to-back losses to North Cobb Christian and Mount Paran, ending its season. The sixth-seeded Lady Wolfpack did open the tourney by upsetting third-seeded Gordon Lee 19-25, 25-13, 25-22.
Kelsey Butler and Sunni Dupree hit back-to-back kills to open up a 23-21 lead in the third set, and the Lady Wolfpack had match point on a Gordon Lee error. Gracie Babcock finished the match with a back-row kill on Whitefield’s second attempt at match point.