LaFayette head volleyball coach Chris Logan said he was expecting a tough battle against Sonoraville on Saturday and he turned out to be correct.
However, like the three other times the Lady Ramblers faced the Lady Phoenix earlier this year, the result turned out to be the same.
Top-seeded LaFayette captured the Area 6-AAA tournament championship on its own home floor after outlasting second-seeded Sonoraville in the final, 25-22, 25-19 and 25-23.
With the victory, the Lady Ramblers (39-8) will face Cherokee Bluff, the No. 4 seed from Area 6, in a Class AAA first-round playoff match Tuesday night in South Walker County.
"You get a team like Sonoraville and they have hitters across the board," Logan said. "If you give them a second or two, they're going to have good stuff going on."
Sonoraville led 20-14 late in the opening set as they threatened to not only win a set off LaFayette for the first time all season, but draw first blood in the best-of-five championship match.
But LaFayette showed its moxie by scoring four of the next six points to cut the gap down to 22-20. A kill by Jaden Tucker and a hitting error by Sonoraville would tie the match and an emphatic kill by Colby Charland gave LaFayette the lead. The Lady Phoenix would suffer another hitting error to give LaFayette set point and Markella Johnson capped the decisive 7-0 run with an ace to give her team the first set.
LaFayette trailed early again in set No. 2, but used a 5-0 run to rally for a 10-8 lead, forcing Sonoraville to call timeout. The Lady Ramblers would manage to stay a few points ahead over the next 20 points, but back-to-back aces by Kloe Ludy, a kill by Johnson, a big block by Sarah Ray and two more Sonoraville errors gave LaFayette set point.
The Lady Phoenix could only manage to get the ball back over the net following a great serve by Alex Wysong and Charland was there to hammer home the free ball, giving the Lady Ramblers a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
The third and what would be the final set saw LaFayette bolt out to a 5-1 lead, only to see Sonoraville come charging back to cut the deficit down to 7-6. LaFayette would go on another run to boost its advantage to 18-12, once again forcing the Lady Phoenix to ask for time-out to try and regroup.
But the brief break also seem to end LaFayette's momentum as Sonoraville came storming back to score eight of the next 10 points to tie things up at 20.
However, kills by Tucker and Cook, along with two blocks from Cook, put the Orange-and-Black on the verge of victory. Sonoraville would stave off one match point, but not a second as Johnson ripped one final shot down the center of the floor to clinch LaFayette's second consecutive area title.
"Earlier in the year, sometimes things would snowball on us a little," Logan explained. "But tonight, if we gave up one or two points, we just found a way to stay in control and turn the faucet off. We know how to play and how to win, but at this point in the year, our girls have learned how to compete."
Tucker had eight kills in the championship match, while Wysong finished with five kills, four blocks and a pair of aces as both earned praise from Logan for their performance.
"Your big-time players are going to be your big-time players, but then you have other players that you need to come in and be that X-factor and sometimes it's a tough role to have," he said. "Jaden and Alex both stepped up tonight and did their jobs well. It really clicked for both of them today."
Cook picked up six kills and four blocks. Johnson had five kills, a block and an ace and Ray finished with five kills, four aces and three blocks. Charland dished out 29 assists to go with six kills and two digs. Ludy had nine digs to go with her two aces, and Daisy Felipe chipped in with four digs.
"This was big for our seniors," Logan continued. "When you're behind two big players like the ones we graduated last year, and now you're the one in the light, that can be intimidating sometimes. But these girls have kept pushing and kept pushing. The last two weeks, we've had some very tough matches and we've lost a few of them, but we've gotten better because of playing them and that got us ready to rock and roll this weekend."
Logan added that Cherokee Bluff's size reminds him of a team he's quite familiar with this season.
"From what I can tell, they're pretty big, kind of similar to Sonoraville, with a lot of hitters," he added. "We're going to try to learn more about them tomorrow and get ready to play them on Tuesday."
LaFayette's first match on Saturday resulted in a 25-18, 25-17 semifinal victory over fifth-seeded Murray County. Johnson had six kills, two aces and two digs. Cook finished with four kills and four blocks, while Charland and had 16 assists to go with two kills and two blocks.
Wysong and Tucker had three kills apiece with Wysong adding two digs, a pair of blocks and an ace. Ludy finished with seven digs, while Felipe added two digs and Ray collected two digs and a kill.