All four of the Northside volleyball teams that advanced to the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state championships won titles.
Marist, Westminster, Pace and Holy Innocents’ each took home state titles in the finals at the Lakepoint Sports Complex in Cartersville Nov. 7.
In Class 4A, Marist blanked Northwest Whitfield 3-0 for its first state crown since 2017. In Class 3A, Westminster (20-3) shut out Morgan County 3-0 for its first state championship since 2016.
“Winning a championship is always an amazing and memorable experience, but this year was especially impactful for us,” Westminster coach Cat Monroe said. “Westminster has a very comprehensive COVID protocol, which we value but it also came with a few tradeoffs for our program. For example, we started the season later than other teams and significantly reduced the amount of matches we played to minimize exposure and remain healthy. We were fortunate in that the matches we did play were with top notch teams, so we felt challenged and prepared heading into playoffs.
“We were one of the few teams that wore masks the entire time, which I believe showed the girls’ resilience through and acceptance of a unique season requiring new guidelines. We were ranked in the top 5 in Georgia (in all classifications) for most of the season and ended up at No. 5. We did not lose a single set in the entire state run, so clinching the state championship with confidence was the ending we had prepared and hoped for.”
Monroe said the Wildcats’ six starters were all seniors, and the team was led by senior outside hitter Mary Emily Morgan (5.0 kills per set, .378 hitting percentage and 2.9 digs per set), senior setter Chloe Emch (45 aces, 10.9 assists per set and 2.4 digs per set), senior right side Elena Karas (2.4 kills per set, .285 hitting percentage, 2.4 digs per set) and junior outside hitter Ashley Vincent (4.3 kills per set, .437 hitting percentage). Monroe said no opponents got 20 points in a single set against Westminster during the region and state playoffs.
In Class AA/A Public, Pace (22-7) edged Gordon Lee 3-2 for its fourth straight state crown.
“I really didn’t think we would have a season much less find ourselves in November competing for a state championship,” Pace coach Anna Bush said. “I’m thankful on so many levels given all the obstacles in front of us all season long.”
Bush said freshmen Grace Agolli, Ellie Siskin and Dhru Lalaji “did not play like freshmen, and that was huge for us.”
Agolli had 63 aces, 234 kills, .294 hitting percentage and 206 assists for the season and notched 22 kills, a .309 hitting percentage, 19 assists and four aces in the title match. Siskin had 127 kills and a .214 hitting percentage this season and 15 kills and a .289 hitting percentage against Gordon Lee. Lalaji had 62 aces and 146 digs for the season and notched four aces and 24 digs in the finals.
But they were not the team’s only standouts.
“In addition, sophomore, Brooke Brumfield was our fifth set hero in the state championship, serving seven straight to seal the victory,” Bush said. “Finally, our upperclassmen gelled into great leaders, and I felt that had to happen for us to be successful this year. I played more kids than I ever have – and deep into the state playoffs, which paid off in the end.”
In Class A Private, Holy Innocents’ (34-4) handled Hebron Christian 3-1 for its first state title since winning three in a row from 2013 through 2015. “There aren’t words for me to describe how proud I am of this team,” Holy Innocents’ coach Taylor Noland said. “This is my fourth state title at Holy Innocents’ but certainly the hardest earned. We had seven seniors this year and they all contributed. In the finals match, Paige Collins (senior/outside hitter) led the offense with 22 kills and Maddie Whittaker (senior/libero) led the defense with 25 digs.
“For the season Maddie had 490 digs, and Paige had 380 digs and 346 kills. Our senior setter, Ellen Goetz, finished the season with 1,077 assists. Our other seniors – Renee Davis, Caitlyn Surdykowski, Caroline Harper and Mary Anna Wearing – all contributed to our … team.”