After Lambert upset Johns Creek to advance through the semifinals, South Forsyth handled the Lady Longhorns in a 3-0 sweep Thursday night to win the Area 6 tournament final, hosted by Lambert High School.
South went undefeated in the bracket and defeated Johns Creek Wednesday night to force the Lady Gladiators, who entered the tournament a perfect 11-0 in region play, into a win-or-go home scenario against Lambert.
South (37-7, 9-1) head coach Kelly Wren said the team game planned heavily to face Johns Creek and had to recalibrate after Lambert rallied to win the first set and then used some extra luck—including a kill of a shoe deflection from libero Jordyn Moellering—to take the semi match, 2-0.
“The big thing we focused on was respecting Lambert,” Wren said.
South had the advantage in the energy department. Lambert had to play three matches Wednesday and had to follow an emotional upset by turning around and playing for the region title. South had no problem, winning three sets out of the five allotted by scores of 25-16, 25-17 and 25-14.
South's Amanda Nugent led the way against Lambert, recording 14 total kills and an ace. Erin Yeatman and Savian Jordan added three aces a piece, often crafty, and Shealyn McNamara had three big blocks.
Courtney Darling had the final's winning point when she lobbed a ball into empty space rather than setting up one of the outside hitters. On top of the title, South brought home the area's coach of the year award, given to Wren, the c0-player of the year, given to Nugent (Mikaela Gauthreax, Johns Creek), and the defensive player of the year, given to Yeatman.
“We've never had a volleyball region title. It's amazing,” Wren, who took over the program eight years ago, said. “I think we've been a successful state level program, but this is the culmination of what we're trying to do is build a top notch, elite level program.”
Lambert (32-11, 7-4) will be the No. 2 seed from Area 6 in the state playoffs, while Johns Creek (37-8, 11-2) will drop to the third seed.
Lambert trailed 24-18 in the first set but rallied all the way back and eventually won 28-26, with a deciding block point coming from Kendal Barrett. The Lady Longhorns went more confidently into the second set, eventually winning 25-20.
Moellering's magical foot save gave Lambert a 22-19 lead. On the far left sideline, she extended her foot to attempt to keep a hard-hit kill attempt in play, but instead it fired back to the net, rolled over the top and dropped for a point, drawing an eruption from the crowd.
Nobody was stronger for Lambert than the injured Ashley Cruise, who recorded 10 kills, three aces and a block point despite playing on a strained achilles. Unfortunately cruise's injury kept her out of the third and final set against South.
“There are no words. Things were just clicking. When you get a kill on a shoe ball, you know things are working out for you,” Lambert coach Missey Hall said. “Again, and we talked last time, I was disappointed in how we started. We were very quiet and very into ourselves, but once we started making that comeback we had a timeout where I really talked to them about it being the semifinals and being present. We got contributions from everybody on the court.”