For the second year in a row, the Heritage Lady Generals will be playing in the Class AAAA state volleyball tournament.
But for the first time in seven years, they are going in as a No. 1 seed.
Heritage earned its first area championship since 2013 on Saturday, avenging a morning loss to Northwest Whitfield by beating the Lady Bruins again in the championship match later in the day.
The tournament was held at Pickens High School.
The Navy-and-Red, who beat Cedartown in a preliminary match in Boynton on Thursday, faced Northwest in the winners' bracket final on Saturday morning after the Lady Bruins defeated Ridgeland in a winners' bracket semifinal match Thursday night in Tunnel Hill.
Second-seeded Northwest, who slipped past top-seeded Heritage in three sets just over a week ago, took the victory by scores of 28-26 and 25-20. Lauren Francis had eight kills and nine assists for Heritage in the loss, while Lauren Mock finished with four kills and three digs.
Dropping into the elimination bracket final, Heritage once again faced Cedartown and once again handled the Lady Bulldogs with relative ease, winning 25-15 and 25-10, behind nine assists, four digs, two blocks and an ace from Francis. Avery Phillips also contributed 11 assists, three aces, two digs and one kill.
That set up a championship rematch with the Lady Bruins and the best-of-five battle was every bit the heavyweight showdown fans anticipated.
Heritage claimed the first set with a 25-22 win, but Northwest came back to win the next two, 25-15 and 25-16, putting them one set away from the title. However, the Lady Generals had other ideas. They took the fourth set, 25-21, to force a fifth-set tiebreaker and then won the championship with a 15-8 victory.
Kallie Carter had 14 kills and four blocks in the final match, while Aaliyah Rodgers racked up 10 kills to go with six digs and an ace.
"Our philosophy coming into the tournament was to respect everyone, but fear no one," said head coach Kari Cooper, later named the 7-AAAA Coach of the Year. "After battling through the day and digging ourselves into a tough situation (down two sets to one in the final), our girls stepped up to the challenge and reminded one another of our philosophy. The players made adjustments and played every point for their teammates."
Carter, Francis and Anna Wilks were all named the All-Area first team by the league coaches, while Phillips was a second team selection. Francis was also named the 7-AAAA Player of the Year.
Heritage (33-7) will now turn its attention to Wednesday and a first-round match against Miller Grove, the No. 4 seed from Region 6. Should the Lady Generals win on Wednesday, they would host a second-round match on Saturday against either Area 5 runner-up Hampton or Area 8 No. 3 seed Chestatee.
The start time for Wednesday's match had not yet been determined as of press time.