LaFayette Ramblers

After a miracle comeback against Greater Atlanta Christian in the Sweet 16 three days earlier, the LaFayette Lady Ramblers just couldn't find any more magic when they needed it.

After taking the first set in their Class AAA Elite Eight home match against Area 4 champion Morgan County on Tuesday night, LaFayette watched as the Lady Bulldogs stormed back to win the next three sets and punch its ticket to the Final Four, 20-25, 25-14, 25-21 and 25-22.

LaFayette charged out of the starting blocks in the opener, building a 15-8 lead and using an 8-2 run to put them two points away from winning the opening set.

Morgan County would not give up so easily. Down 23-10, they would win 10 of the next 11 points in the match to quickly tighten up the score before LaFayette could finally finish it off.

Even in defeat, the late rally seemed to fuel the Lady Bulldogs, who used a 9-0 run in the second set to take a 14-4 lead. Riding the momentum, they finished off the second set and built a 20-13 lead in the third before Imani Cook finally stopped the run with a kill.

The Lady Ramblers tried to fight back, scoring nine of the next 13 points to cut the deficit to 23-21. But a Morgan County kill would clip the end line to give them set point and one final ace would finish it off and put the Lady Bulldogs one set away from victory.

The fourth set would be close early on, but Morgan County again threatened to pull away as they built a 15-8 lead. But with their backs against the wall, in much the same fashion as they did this past Saturday against GAC, the Lady Ramblers responded.

They would win the next eight points in a row, tying the match at 15 apiece on a kill by Jaden Tucker and taking a 16-15 lead on a perfectly placed push shot by Colby Charland.

The set would go on to be tied up at 16, 17, 20 and 21 when the Lady Bulldogs put on one final push. They would get a kill to go up by one and used a LaFayette violation and an ace to bring them to match point.

Sarah Ray would get a kill to stave off the first match point, but LaFayette couldn't hold off a second one as a final Lady Bulldog spike ended the Lady Ramblers' season.

"Coming into it, we knew we had to keep the pressure on them," LaFayette head coach Chris Logan explained. "Watching them on film, they really reminded me of us and how we play. They scrap and once they get rocking with their defense, they get big swings from the outside, in the middle and wherever they want to spread it out.

"Once they got after it, we had a hard time getting our energy up again where we had it in the last two matches."

Cook had 13 kills and three blocks in the season finale. Ray finished with 12 kills, three blocks, two aces and two digs, while Markella Johnson had 10 kills on the night. Alex Wysong had six kills, four digs and two blocks and Tucker chipped in with three kills.

Kloe Ludy had 15 digs and a pair of assists. Daisy Felipe had eight digs and Charland had six kills, five digs, three blocks and an ace, while her 39 assists put her over 1,000 for the second consecutive season.

"This is the most improved team that I've ever coached," said Logan, whose team ended the year 41-9. "We lost two really big players from last year, but you check the MaxPreps stats and Imani was 54th in the state in kills and Markella was 55th coming into this one. Yet we were second as a team (statewide) in total kills and Colby was No. 1 in the state in assists and that just speaks a ton on how the girls have bought in and played together as a team."

While Charland and others will be back next year, Logan said his four seniors would definitely be missed. LaFayette's seniors leave the program with a pair of area championships and a 171-36 record, easily the best four-year run in program history.

"This is the first year I've coached that every senior (we have) started out (their careers) on the JV team," he added. "Not one of them started on varsity as a freshman. Sarah came up about three-quarters of the way through her freshman year. Imani and Kloe started with the varsity when they were sophomores and Gracie, who unfortunately was not able to play this year, didn't come up until her junior year.

"But every one of these girls have improved so much. By far, it's the most improved group I've ever coached over four years. They got to go to state all four years, the Sweet 16 the last three years, the Elite Eight the last two years and the Final Four last year. That's big-time."

Morgan County will host Sandy Creek in a semifinal match on Saturday, while Sonoraville, the Area 6 runner-up, will travel to Westminster.

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

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