The Lady Wolverines were on the bottom end of a three-way tie with Milton and Roswell for the area’s No. 3 seed, having to settle for No. 5 instead. It didn’t get any easier Thursday night, when they fell to Roswell in straight sets in the first round of the area tournament, making it more difficult to maneuver their way back through losers’ bracket.
But despite the setbacks, Woodstock didn’t refrain from its goal of finishing in the top two of the area tournament.
With its season on the line going into Saturday’s matches at Milton, the Lady Wolverines defeated Cherokee, Milton and Lassiter — with hardly a break in between — and they survived a three-set marathon against Etowah to earn a spot in the tournament championship.
That’s as far as Woodstock, got, however, as it fell 26-24, 25-15, 25-11 to two-time reigning state champion Walton in the finals.
“We have our goals up in our locker room, and to be in the top two in the area was the No. 1 thing we wanted to do, and we accomplished that,” Woodstock outside hitter Sara Graf said. “(Walton is) an all-around a good team. I loved playing them because they can hit really hard. We fought back and really gave them a run for their money.”
Based on the first set of the final match, there’s no telling how different the match would be had the Lady Wolverines (32-14) been better rested against Class AAAAAA’s top-ranked team. Once Walton (29-7) raised its game after winning an extended first set, the Lady Wolverines didn’t have enough fuel to keep up.
But at least Woodstock gets to host the first round of the Class AAAAAA state tournament Thursday.
Milton, which won the three-way tiebreaker for the top seed, came up short in making the state tournament, falling to Roswell and failing to secure the fifth and final spot out of 4AAAAAA.
Etowah was at least guaranteed the third seed from the area after advancing to the finals of the winners’ bracket with straight-set wins over Marietta and Milton. A 25-21, 25-17 loss to the Lady Raiders set up Etowah’s match with Woodstock for a spot in the finals. But the No. 2-seeded Lady Eagles couldn’t survive their three-setter with Woodstock in attempt to get a rematch with Walton.
Sixth-seeded Lassiter upset Roswell in the losers’ bracket to secure a playoff spot and took the area’s No. 4 seed with a loss to Woodstock.
Woodstock’s stellar defensive performances on the front and back rows against Etowah carried over into its first set against Walton, and it caused the Lady Raiders to make unforced errors.
Woodstock led for most of the first set before Walton rallied, and with the score at 24-all, the Lady Raiders had back-to-back kills to secure the set.
While Woodstock had enough energy to keep up with Walton early in the second and third sets, the Lady Raiders cut down on their unforced errors, allowing them to get comfortable in their offense.
A couple of early service runs by Walton in both sets seemed to put the fatigued Lady Wolverines out of sync.
“We majorly ran out of gas,” Woodstock coach Anita Dodd said. “Five matches is a long time, and then to have the No. 1 team in the state in the fifth match and have to win three out of five with them. … The first game was a good one. It was a really good one, but we couldn’t keep our momentum.”
Graf and Riley McBay each had five kills against Walton, and both were named to the all-area team. Kayla Ousley contributed with three solo blocks.
In Woodstock’s 25-22, 23-25, 25-16 win over Etowah, Graf had 14 kills, and Cassady Thompson added 10. Grace Townsend had 31 assists, and Paige Trammell had more than 10 digs.
Woodstock’s defense played a major role in the third set of the Etowah match, making the Lady Eagles more error-prone.
Jenna Lea had 12 kills for Etowah (30-17) against Woodstock, and Carlie Gilbert added eight. Chelsea Brady dished out 26 assists for the Lady Eagles.