Gordon Lee Trojans

The Gordon Lee Lady Trojans haven't shied away from the fact that they set a goal at the start of the 2020 season to play for a state championship.

The first step toward doing that was securing the regular season area championship, which happened a week ago, and on Saturday, they moved into Phase 2.

Hosting the 7-AA/A Tournament in their own gym, Gordon Lee was simply overpowering in wins over Gordon Central and Dade County as they earned the area title for the third consecutive year.

With the victory comes a No. 1 seed for the state tournament, which is tentatively slated to begin on Oct. 21.

"Our goal was to get in here (today) and finish with the No. 1 seed," head coach Adam Crowley said. "We like how the brackets could fall and we're excited about that. Plus, we're finally getting healthy again and that's huge. Now it's time to tweak the lineup and see what works the best."

Already a formidable foe for most teams in the northwest Georgia area, even at 75-80 percent, the Lady Trojans played Saturday's tournament with Gracie Thomas and Emoree Rogers back in the lineup after both had been sidelined mid-season with injuries.

Both made their presence known on Saturday as well. Thomas had a dozen kills, while Rogers dished out 29 assists and recorded 10 aces, but they were only part of equation as the Lady Trojans came out firing and never let up.

After a first-round bye and a 25-13, 25-4, 25-5 semifinal victory over Gordon Central, the Navy-and-White turned its attention to state-ranked and second-seeded Dade County in the title match.

The first set was little more than target practice for the Lady Trojans, who shook off a very early 3-1 deficit by scoring 15 consecutive points and coasting to the 25-6 win.

Better play by Dade County and a couple of unforced mistakes by the Lady Trojans kept the Lady Wolverines within striking distance for the bulk of the second set. Gordon Lee's lead was 19-16 when some well-placed serves and timely shots by Sam Cramer and a pair of thunderous kills by Brooklyn Hudson - who picked up her second straight Area Player of the Year award before the final match - allowed Gordon Lee to pull away late for a 25-16 victory.

Then in what would be the final set, Gordon Lee quickly jumped in front, 10-3, and maintained the seven-point advantage for several minutes. But four kills by Arilyn Lee and an ace by M.K. Roberts boosted the lead to 18-6 and Dade would never get closer than 10 points the rest of the way. One final kill by Hudson clinched the 25-10 win and the match.

Hudson finished with 27 kills in the two matches, while Lee picked up 17. Cramer had four, but also recorded 17 assists. Annie McDaniel led the defensive effort with 18 digs, followed by Roberts with 13.

"Here's what's awesome about this team," Crowley continued. "There's times when it doesn't matter who we put in there, everyone is contributing and making their best efforts. As coaches, Tricia (Goodwin) and I are in awe sometimes of just how good we can be. We just have to keep bringing that elevation and excitement."

Gordon Lee (31-11) will have two final tune-ups prior to the state opener. Those come on Oct. 13 when they travel south on Highway 27 to take on Dalton and LaFayette in a tri-match at LHS.

The Lady Trojans and Lady Ramblers - ranked No. 2 in Class AAA - have met twice already this season. LaFayette claimed a 25-22, 27-25 win in the semifinals of the Coosa Invitational back in late August, while Gordon Lee earned a 22-25, 25-18, 15-12 win in the rematch in Chickamauga, just this past Thursday.

"We scheduled LaFayette and Dalton for later in the season because we wanted to see good competition at the end of the year," Crowley added. "We had a knock-down, drag-out with LaFayette the other day and I'm sure we'll have another one when we get down there.

"I'm excited about it. Anytime we can play better teams, that's how we're going to get better."

In addition to Hudson's award, Cramer, McDaniel and Roberts were named to the All-Area Team, as voted on by the league coaches.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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