The LaFayette Lady Ramblers won a school-record 45 matches in the regular season and they added to that total on Saturday with a straight-sets victory over visiting North Oconee in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.
The win put LaFayette back in the Sweet 16 for a second straight year.
The first set was close early on, but sophomore Colby Charland stepped to the service line and delivered seven consecutive points, including two aces, to give LaFayette control for good.
After a 25-11 victory in that first set, the Lady Ramblers would again pull away midway through the second set for a 25-19 victory, putting them on the brink of a sweep.
The Titans did their best to prevent that from happening. They stayed within striking distance for most of the third set and cut what had been a five-point LaFayette lead down to two, 18-16, forcing LaFayette head coach Chris Logan to call a timeout.
The strategy worked out perfectly as North Oconee served it into the net coming out of the break and LaFayette's big guns would help finish off the match. Sarah Ray had two big kills down the stretch to help the Orange-and-Black close it out with a 25-19 victory.
"Their defense was set up on our middle, so on the last five points we went to our rightside and outside hitters, which were our strong points tonight," Logan explained. "Our Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters did a great job for us."
It was a balanced team effort for LaFayette. Gracie Stier led the way with nine kills to go with eight digs and two blocks. Ray finished with eight total kills, three blocks and two aces. Jillian Morgan had seven kills, two blocks and one ace, while Imani Cook collected six kills and six blocks.
Charland dished out 30 assists to go with 14 digs, three aces, two kills and four blocks. Markella Johnson, seeing her first varsity action of the season, impressed with five kills. Daisy Felipe had five digs, as did Kloe Ludy, while Alex Wysong finished with three digs.
"It feels good (to get the win)," Logan added. "(North Oconee's) coach is a big-time coach and he knows what he's doing over there. They threw some stuff at us that we don't see everyday. They did some stuff that took us out of our defense, which is usually our strength, but our girls just held their own. We could have layed down, but we kept pushing and we're glad to be back in the Sweet 16."
LaFayette (46-5) will be back at home on Wednesday night to take on Eastside in the second round of the playoffs. Eastside (29-16) defeated West Laurens, 25-14, 27-25 and 25-11, in the first match of the day at LaFayette.
Wednesday's match will begin at 5:30 p.m.