MARIETTA — Walton breezed to a spot in the Region 3AAAAAAA finals with a three-set sweep of Hillgrove on Wednesday in a semifinal match at Marietta Garden.

The Lady Raiders (17-1) won the first set 25-9 and the next two 25-12 and 25-15 to clinch the match and advance to the championship to play Harrison on Thursday.

Walton jumped out to a 9-3 lead, with Mary Neal contributing two kills.

Hillgrove (5-9) could only get as close as five points, 12-7, before the Lady Raiders scored 11 unanswered points and finished the set with a 13-2 run.

Hillgrove led in the second set before Walton went on another big run, outscoring the Lady Hawks 13-0, with Neal and Sophia Henry each contributing kills to pull away for a two-set lead.

Hillgrove again took an early lead in the third set, 5-3, but Walton came back with four unanswered points to take a 7-5 advantage, and the Lady Raiders never trailed again.

Lia Ekendahl finished the match with 11 kills and three blocks, while Kaye Gresham had five kills and blocks and Elizabeth Cheney had nine digs and four aces. Catherine Cheney had seven digs and four aces, Emery Dupes had seven assists and four aces and Ashlyn Goolsby added two aces, five kills and 22 assists.

“We’ve been working really hard on executing each rep,” Walton coach Suzanne Fitzgerald said. “Everything we’ve been practicing since (the Nike Tournament of Champions two weeks ago), there was so little room for error down there against some of those teams. It allowed us to come back and respond more quickly when a team starts to gain the momentum, and I thought we did a great job.

“Hillgrove put a couple of balls down, and the girls responded aggressively. They did everything they worked on in training, and I’m very proud of them.”

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