Though the Lady Hoyas would have preferred to not have fallen to South Forsyth (25-21, 25-23) on Saturday afternoon, they’ll take it after having to deal with a variety of nagging injuries and illnesses over the last week.
“I didn’t think we expected to get to the final match (Saturday), based on the injuries and illnesses, but the girls proved that they can play and that they are gamers,” Harrison coach Clay Taylor said. “Nothing to take away from South Forsyth or teams that we played — I give my kids all kinds of credit for the effort they gave.”
Aside from missing outside hitter Kodi Smith, still missing after offseason shoulder surgery, the Lady Hoyas (21-4) appear devoid of serious injuries.
Caroline Ostman was shaken up against South Forsyth after colliding with teammate Taylor Haskins. Ostman was taken to the training room after the match, but Taylor said her injury was wasn’t serious.
Ostman continues to be the offensive force for Harrison, finishing with 12 kills against South Forsyth. Haskins and Andie Karmel each had four.
The Lady Hoyas came from behind to beat South Forsyth when the teams met Aug. 24, but they didn’t pass well enough to win a second time. The series isn’t over between the two teams, who will meet again Saturday at South Forsyth.
“In this game, passing matters,” Taylor said. “We didn’t pass horribly, but at the key moments, we didn’t get the pass we needed. Kids are up and down and it’s an emotional game.”
Harrison did pass well early in the second set, when it won eight straight points after trailing 9-4. But a few miscues while setting up its offense interrupted the momentum, and South Forsyth won the key points in the end.
Taylor Svehla led South Forsyth with nine kills, and Rachel Croce added six.
Despite coming up short in Saturday’s match, Harrison is showing signs of making a return to the state championship match for the third straight year.
Madison Bright is asserting herself as Harrison’s new setter, replacing Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Player of the Year Kelly Scott, who is now at Georgia Southern.
Katie Doering is touted as one of the better freshman middle blockers in the state. Most of her nine kills in a semifinal-round win over against St. Pius X came late in the match, helping Harrison prevail 17-25, 25-21, 15-6. She and Karmel make a solid tandem up front, with Karmel leading the team with a .350 attack percentage.
With last year’s libero, Catherine Gallagher, having graduated, Jocelyn Mahayag has taken over the back row.
Harrison, however, knows it will have to confront Area 3AAAAAA rival North Cobb — maybe more than once — to be successful down the stretch. The Lady Warriors are coming off two straight state semifinal appearances, and they also made the semifinals of the gold bracket at Lovett.
North Cobb (16-6) was ahead of South Forsyth in both sets before settling for a 25-22, 25-23 loss.
The Lady Warriors made a remarkable comeback in the quarterfinals against Columbus after getting dominated in the first set and won 14-25, 25-20, 18-16.
Facing match point in the third set, freshman Shannon Callan made a dig to keep the Lady Warriors alive and served out the remaining two points to win it.
“We passed better in the second set (against Columbus),” North Cobb coach James Auld said. “Once we had better ball control, the energy came up. We didn’t pass well in the first set.”
Savanna Gonzales, who recently returned from an ankle injury, led with 13 kills against Columbus. Tate Pember finished with 19 digs, and Taylor Parrish dished out 30 assists.