After dropping a 25-23, 20-25, 25-23 decision to the Lady Warriors, the Lady Hoyas rallied back through the losers’ bracket to beat North Cobb 25-14, 25-13, 25-22 in a best-of-five championship final.
Harrison needed three sets to top Hillgrove (25-14, 18-25, 25-6) in the losers’ bracket final, and it used that momentum to take care of the Lady Warriors and capture its fourth consecutive area championship.
Taylor Haskins, who had a .600 attack percentage in the championship match, had a double-double with 12 kills, 10 digs and three aces to pace Harrison (47-10). Caroline Ostman added 10 kills, 11 digs and 1½ blocks, and Allana McInnis dished out 19 assists with seven digs and a block.
“I think it was because it was the championship match,” Harrison coach Clay Taylor said about why his team played so well against North Cobb the second time. “The kids really got up for it. I think the first match was in the back of their minds. We didn’t pass or serve well in that first match, but they were fired up to play well in the championship.
“To win four in a row is really great for the program. It’s never easy when you have to face North Cobb, because they play so well. I have a strong feeling we’ll see them again down the road in the state playoffs.”
Harrison put together a couple of runs to build leads in the first and second sets. The Lady Hoyas opened with three straight points, behind kills from Ostman and Bailey Scott and a block from Andie Karmel, and poured it on from there.
The margin grew to 7-1 with block-assists from Scott and Karmel until North Cobb (38-15) pulled within 7-3 following Taylor Parrish’s kill.
The lead grew to eight points on six occasions and reached nine twice before Harrison eventually won. Sarah Taylor’s service ace put the Lady Hoyas in front 22-14, and the team rode Taylor’s service game for 25-14 first-set final.
North Cobb opened the second set with a slight 3-1 advantage, but Harrison used a 17-5 spurt to take an 18-8 lead. Haskins served on the majority of those points as the Lady Hoyas’ margin grew from 5-4 to 11-5.
The closest the Lady Warriors got down the stretch was eight points on three occasions.
Back-to-back North Cobb attack errors put Harrison ahead 23-12, and Kaylee McClure’s ace left the Lady Hoyas with match point at 24-12. Ostman’s kill a point later sealed the 25-13 second set win.
North Cobb made things challenging in a third set that saw 12 ties. After trailing 5-2, Kaitlyn Woodruff scored five of North Cobb’s eight points during an 8-1 run that left the Lady Warriors leading 10-6. Shannon Callan had two aces during the stretch.
Trailing 12-8, Harrison fought back behind two Ostman kills and several North Cobb errors. Savanna Gonzales’ kill tied the contest for the last time at 22-all. A North Cobb service error and block-assists from McInnis and Ostman put the Lady Hoyas ahead 24-22, and McClure’s ace clinched the match for Harrison.
“That third set is what we expected the whole match to be,” Taylor said. “I feel like we got North Cobb out of synch in those first two sets, and they really battled like I knew they would in the third.”
Madison Bright had eight digs for Harrison, while Kodi Smith had 15. Karmel finished with three kills and an ace.
Gonzales contributed eight kills, a block and two digs for North Cobb. Tate Pember added 13 digs and Abby Miller had eight digs and five kills. Karla Radillo finished with seven digs, Woodruff had eight kills, four digs, 1½ blocks and three aces and Parrish collected six digs, 22 assists and one kill.
“(Harrison) passed well and we served terribly in that championship match,” North Cobb coach James Auld said. “We had no ability at the net to dictate their offense and let (Ostman) and (Haskins) take over.
“I’m proud of the girls for fighting back in that third set. They could have thrown in the towel, but they didn’t.”
Harrison will be a No. 1 seed in next week’s state playoffs while No. 2 North Cobb, No. 3 Hillgrove, No. 4 McEachern and No. 5 Kennesaw Mountain will also represent the area in the state playoffs.
Harrison 2, Hillgrove 1: Before the championship match took place, the No. 3 seed was determined, and that went to the Lady Hawks after their 25-14, 18-25, 25-6 loss.
Tied at 13-all, Harrison finished the first set on a 12-1 run to take an early lead. Hillgrove (21-19) battled back in the second set, pulling out in front 16-10 before winning by seven.
Harrison’s Kaylee McClure recorded five straight service points to build a 10-2 margin in the third set. The lead grew to 16-3 and Andie Karmel’s five-point service run extended the advantage to 24-5. Taylor Haskins’ kill ended the match.
Myah Martin had 14 assists and three digs for Hillgrove. Janna Jernigan added two kills, seven digs and three aces, while Maddie Johnson totaled nine digs and two aces.
Makenzie Engram finished with five kills and a block, Chioma Okonkwo had three kills and three digs and Brittany Tullier collected four kills.