Sandy Creek celebrates winning another championship.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
The Sandy Creek Fighting Patriots have more than football to cheer about this season as the Patriot volleyball team won the 2012 AAAA State Championship at Marietta High School last Saturday.
The Patriots defeated a very determined team from Columbus High School despite a blow to their starting lineup that came late in the first set. It was a battle of epic proportions between freshman setters, strong middle and outside hitters and scrappy defensive plays. However, it would be the Fighting Patriots who would take home the title this season, their second in two years and third in school history.
Sandy Creek jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in set one with senior middle blocker Alisha Erves delivering the first kill of the match, followed by an ace by freshman setter Alexis Broadwater. The remainder of the set was a back and forth battle of will with Sandy Creek taking as much as a six point lead at several different points during the game. With Creek leading the Blue Devils at 22-16, the set turned tragic for the Patriots when senior outside hitter and serious point contributor Tori Sellers landed badly and left the game with a possible ACL tear. Rattled and worried about their teammate, but needing only three to win set one, Creek pulled together, held Columbus to only one, and pulled out the 25-17 win.
The second set started out similarly with Creek jumping to a 3-1 lead following two strong kills by senior outside hitter and UT-Chattanooga commit Allie Davenport, her fifth and sixth kills of the match. An error on the Columbus side put Creek up 4-1 but Columbus would score the next six points and eventually lead Creek 4-7. A few plays later, a big kill by junior middle blocker Sydney Wilson (GA Tech commit) brought Creek back to within two. With Columbus leading 8-6, Creek seemed to gain some momentum back following the Wilson kill, but wouldn’t regain the lead until Wilson and Davenport scored points 16 (to tie) and 17 to go ahead.
Sandy Creek would build that lead to eight points, eventually leading 23-18, but Columbus answered back. The Blue Devils rallied, delivering several well-placed kills in addition to a critical block at 23-20. A Creek kill by Erves, followed by several Creek miscues, brought the score to 24-21. Columbus followed with two kills but Davenport sealed the set with a kill, resulting in the 25-23 win.
Set three was a different story. Columbus, determined not to let Sandy Creek win the set and the championship, rallied while Sandy Creek suffered through as many as 11 unforced errors. The Patriots never gave up, but Columbus middle blocker Brianna Gogins (Auburn commit) thwarted several Creek attack attempts and added a few key kills of her own. Columbus would lead by as many as seven at different points throughout the set and would eventually win by nine with a score of 25-16.
A short break between sets seemed to help revitalize the Sandy Creek team as they quickly took a 4-2 lead in set four following two kills by Davenport and one by Wilson. Columbus would eventually tie things up at eight following a kill by Gogins. Creek answered quickly with three Davenport kills and an ace by junior outside hitter Maddison Farr resulting in a 14-9 Creek lead. Three Creek errors, followed by a Columbus kill, put the Blue Devils right back in it at 14-13. The next few points were back and forth with both teams attacking and forcing errors. Four more Davenport kills and one from Erves put Creek up 24-23. Gogins answered with a huge kill, tying things up at 24. Columbus hit the next one out, followed by a Creek hitting error. Tied at 25, setter Alexis Broadwater proved that setters can score too by dumping the second ball back onto the Columbus side, putting Creek up 26-25. As both sides of the court held their breath, the final point for Creek was delivered by Columbus who mishandled a strong serve by Erves. With a set four score of 27-25, Creek won the match and its second straight state title.
Kill leaders for Sandy Creek were Davenport with 21, Wilson with 10, Broadwater 7, and Erves 6. Junior libero Annie Fitzgerald and Davenport delivered 11 digs each with Erves and Farr both delivering five. Broadwater finished the match with 37 assists.
“We had beaten them three times this season,” said Davenport, “but we all knew what they are capable of. Columbus is a good team every year and we knew we couldn’t rely on our earlier wins. We had to go out there and do it again as though we had never played them this season. We didn’t allow ourselves to get down even when things didn’t go our way during the match, we kept attacking. We worked together and fought for every point.”
“This was a big win for us,” said Collins. “When Tori (Sellers) left the match, that had the potential to be devastating for our team because she contributes a lot in the front and the back row. I couldn’t be more proud of the starting players who kept it together and Maddison Farr who stepped into a high pressure situation and contributed quite a lot in Tori’s absence. It was crunch time, and she delivered.”
When asked about next year, Collins is optimistic. “We are losing several key players to graduation this year, but we have many young, very committed players who are continuing to train with club volleyball teams. The fact is, we have a lot of exceptional young talent. There are some who will probably count us out because of who we are losing. The legacy that our seniors leave behind will be the example they set as well as the taste of a state title that our younger players have experienced. They will come out next year with the same hunger, and hopefully we will once again find ourselves on top.”