A three-hour trip to the Northeast Georgia mountains left the Coosa volleyball team with some uneasy feelings as they began their Final Four match against Rabun County on Tuesday.
Their confidence arrived a little late, but their determination never faltered as the Lady Eagles swept the host Lady Wildcats in three sets to earn a spot in the Class AA/A Public state championship match Saturday at McEachern High School.
It will mark the fourth year in a row Coosa will play for a state title, having won the Class AA/A Public championship last year and the Class AA banner two seasons ago.
“We’re excited and the girls are pumped,” Coosa coach Nic Hann said. “They said tonight that they were just worried about getting back to the finals. And I had to tell them that won’t happen unless you get passed this one.”
The Lady Eagles had to press to win the first set 25-19 before settling down and winning the next two sets 25-13, 25-12. Hann said the team spent the first set getting their legs under them.
“We had a break just before the second set and I told them to just settle down and relax,” Hann said. “You could tell there were some nerves, and what we weren’t doing was dictating the match. Rabun was doing some good things, but we were giving them opportunities and not playing our game.”
Both teams matched each other point for point to start the second set, but then Coosa’s serving allowed the Lady Eagles to find their footing in its first state semifinal match on the road in the last four years.
Kasey Thacker led Coosa’s offensive power with 17 kills to go with four aces, five digs and two blocks. Jordan Roberts had nine kills and seven digs, while Brinley Smith recorded 34 assists, seven digs and three aces.
Smith, one of seven seniors along with Thacker and Roberts, is closing in on 4,000 assists for her career. The trio has been an integral part of Coosa’s last three trips to the state finals and will look to bring home a third straight state title this weekend.
“What kid can say, looking back, that every year they played for a state title? Not many, so these girls know what it is to work hard and it’s been paying off for them,” Hann said.
Giving her second straight solid performance was Coosa senior Jenna Reynolds, who had 17 serves in the match with two aces and four digs.
No. 1 Coosa will take on No. 4 Elite Scholars Academy in the state championship match on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s title bout. ESA swept Gordon Lee on Tuesday, 25-18, 25-23, 25-16.
“We will have to be really disciplined defensively because they have some really powerful hitters,” Hann said. “So we’ve got to be able to be on our toes. Over the next three days of practice, our focus will be serving and passing well. Those are the keys to our success right now.”