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VOLLEYBALL: Coosa stands tall to defeat St. Vincent’s, win state title

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ATLANTA — A year’s worth of heartache, drive and hard work was left on the court by the Coosa Lady Eagles on Saturday.

In its place sits a trophy and the knowledge that what they referred to as “unfinished business” is finally accomplished.

Coosa fought through three thrilling sets against St. Vincent’s Academy, each time finding the right mix to climb its way to victory and win the 2017 GHSA Class AA state championship. It is the first time a team from a non-private school has won the title.

“It hasn’t set in. I don’t even know what’s happening right now,” Coosa coach Nic Hann said a few minutes after his team hoisted the state championship trophy for the first time in the program’s history.

“It’s just awesome. I wanted it so bad for these girls. Going back to last year, that feeling we left with has been what’s pushed them this season. They wanted it, and they wanted it bad. And they came out and got it today.”

The finals of the AA bracket, held at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta, was a rematch of last season’s title bout, which was won by St. Vincent’s in a three-set sweep. While Coosa (49-7) exacted revenge with a sweep of its own, the Lady Eagles were challenged from the start and won with scores of 25-23, 25-20 and 27-25.

“We just focused on ourselves and weren’t worried about what was going on on the other side,” Coosa senior Taylor Roberts said. “We just played our game, and it was what we wanted to do all year.”

Roberts led the team with 16 kills and three blocks while also recording nine digs as St. Vincent’s forced their fast-style offense on the Lady Eagles. The Saints’ attack put Coosa on alert early and pushed them to get their blocking set up at the same tempo.

“I knew that we had to get our block because if we did they were hitting it over and out,” Coosa sophomore Kasey Thacker said. “So the main key was that and getting transitioned out because they were hitting spots.”

Thacker had a strong game as well, posting nine kills and 12 digs. She had two blocks and six aces, and made a large contribution with her serve, especially during a 9-0 rally late in the second set that led to Coosa’s most comfortable win of the afternoon.

Deb Barker led Coosa with 20 digs, while Brinley Smith had five digs, two aces and a team-high 30 assists.

St. Vincent’s (24-15) jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set, leading Hann to call a timeout and talk to his players. Coosa came back out and matched the Saints point-for-point until a string of long volleys gave the Lady Eagles a boost and they went on a 9-2 run to close it out.

The third set saw Coosa take a 14-8 lead before their opponents chipped away and tied it up at 18-18. Emotions ran high as the two squads battled for the final point, leading to the match-winning two-point stretch from the Lady Eagles.

“To say that they put blood, sweat and tears into this season would be an understatement,” Hann said of the players. “They have cried, they have bled, they have worked their butts off. And today is just a culmination of that and to see how hard they’ve worked this season.”