Ultimately, Sequoyah’s inexperience on the big stage showed in the first couple of sets before it bounced back to take the third. But McIntosh had the upper hand in the fourth set and came away with a 25-11, 25-18, 21-25, 25-15 win Friday night in the finals of the Class AAAAA tournament.
“It’s all about playing on the biggest stage possible,” said Sequoyah coach John Edwards, who saw his team’s 30-match winning streak — dating back to Sept. 10 — come to an end. “Now that they have had the experience, they will take it and learn from it. I couldn’t be more proud of how hard they worked.”
Sequoyah (40-5) will have the benefit of nearly its entire roster returning in 2014. The only listed seniors on its roster are rightside hitter Kelsey Goran and defensive specialists Jensyn Wells and Emily Ryan.
McIntosh (42-6), the only team seeded better than the Lady Chiefs among the final higher, was near-perfect in moving the ball around in the first two sets. It managed to find the open space to put the ball down and push the Lady Chiefs into making mistakes.
Mollie Michel and Rhegan Mitchell both set the ball for McIntosh, as Michel finished with 30 assists and Mitchell coming away with 14. They each finished with nine kills as well.
Rhana Mitchell led McIntosh with 21 kills, while Abbi Schelkopf came away with 13. Miara Bryant led McIntosh with four blocks.
Unlike its straight-set win over Dunwoody in Wednesday’s semifinal, in which it took the first 20 points to get settled, Sequoyah needed two sets to overcome the jitters Friday night.
“We had to go back to the way we did things, being disciplined and aggressive,” Edwards said. “McIntosh played smart, and if we’re not where we are supposed to be, they will make us pay for it.”
Sequoyah rebounded in the third set by passing better and cutting down on its miscues. That prompted the Lady Chiefs to better run their offense and play stronger defense on the front row.
With the third set knotted at 20-all, Sequoyah won the next five points on blocks. A pair of block-assists by Lauren Hartman and, a passing error by McIntosh gave Sequoyah a 23-20 lead. Hartman and Logan Page combined on a block to get set point, and the same duo blocked another McIntosh attack to clinch the third set.
“We passed a lot better and had more opportunities,” Edwards said of the third set. “Our defense also picked it up and made them work for points instead of the other way around.”
The teams were evenly matched in the fourth set until McIntosh’s Kassandra Robert embarked on a seven-point service run to give her team the advantage. Sequoyah was unable to recover from the 15-8 deficit.
Kali Jones led Sequoyah with 11 kills, while Hartman added 10. Page finished with 31 assists and four blocks.