Matches between two ranked teams usually come down to the wire, but Etowah made quick work of Mill Creek on Tuesday in the second round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs.
Playing on the road, the Lady Eagles won 25-23, 27-25, 25-19 to advance to the state quarterfinals.
Etowah (34-13) beat a Mill Creek team that entered the match with a 40-7 record, and according to coach Kim Robertson, it took a few points for the Lady Eagles to settle in.
“We actually had a pretty rough start,” Robertson said. “We got down early, were making some mistakes and letting them hit. Mill Creek was really athletic, but once we settled down, we were fine. Coming from our region, we play teams like that throughout the season, but it was still close. We were lucky to get out of there 3-0.”
All-state senior Savannah Bray once again was the standout performer for Etowah, finishing with a team-high 22 kills, while adding 12 digs.
Her teammates stepped up as well, as the team finished with nine total blocks and saw contributions up and down the lineup. Sydney Bray finished with six kills and a team-high 17 assists, while Sydney Britton finished with a team-high 28 digs.
Ari Deforneau finished with a team-high five blocks, while Lia Keene and Emily Light each finished with a team-high two aces. Olivia Tafoya added nine assists and five digs.
“We started blocking more (Tuesday), which was good to see,” Robertson said. “This time of the year, I think the kids are just playing better together.”
Etowah will now turn its attention to Region 3AAAAAAA champion Kennesaw Mountain (32-13), a team the Lady Eagles defeated twice earlier this season. Kennesaw Mountain will host Etowah on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Etowah won both matches against Kennesaw Mountain 2-0 earlier this season, but Robertson said an old adage comes back to her mind when thinking about the quarterfinal-round rematch.
“I think we’ll make some tweaks,” Robertson said. “We played them early in August and beat them pretty easily, and we played them again in September and it was closer. I’m and old basketball coach and there’s a saying that you never want to have to beat the same team three times.”
After losing to Milton in the quarterfinals last season, Etowah is looking to advance to the semifinals for the third time in five years. The Lady Eagles finished as state runner-up in 2017, and for the older players on Etowah’s roster, playing this deep into the season is nothing new.
“I think our team’s excited,” Robertson said. “They know we have a chance to get back to the final four and maybe the state championship. I think the younger girls are kind of starting to understand the reputation and tradition we have here.”