Columbus defeats Banneker, Shaw
By DAVID MITCHELL
It's two down, two to go for the Columbus High volleyball team.
The Lady Blue Devils topped Shaw in the second of its two matches in the Area 3-AAAA tournament on Thursday to advance to the semifinals, where it will face top seed Sandy Creek on Saturday.
Despite its loss, Shaw is also still alive in the double-elimination tournament. It will face Fayette County High, also on Saturday, with a chance to move on and face the winner of Columbus and Sandy Creek.
Each of those four teams, by making it to the semifinals, clinched a berth in the state tournament.
"We're excited to be heading to Sandy Creek on Saturday guaranteed to make the playoffs," Columbus coach Donna Fleming said after the win against Shaw. "Now we have to work on staying focused."
That wasn't a problem on Thursday.
After defeating Banneker in two games (25-7, 25-5), the Lady Blue Devils took on a talented Shaw team that was, nonetheless, unable
to keep up for both games. Columbus won the match 2-0 (25-15, 25-9).
The Lady Raiders jumped to an early 5-2 lead in the first game and strung together rallies of three and five points to give itself a chance. Midway through the opening game, Columbus held a slim 14-13 lead against a Shaw team that refused to go away.
Columbus outscored Shaw 11-2 down the stretch, however, to take control of the match. That run of success extended into the second game in which Shaw couldn't put much together. After scoring three consecutive points to cut Columbus' lead to 6-4, Shaw was outscored 19-5 the rest of the way.
Leading the charge for Columbus was outside hitter Chandler Barre (14 kills) and middle hitter Brianna Gogans (12 aces and seven kills). Setter Madison Fleming added 31 assists.
In the losing effort, Shaw's Nia Minnigan had 11 kills and eight digs, Bailey Couty had 30 assists and nine aces, Lindsey Thomas had 10 kills, 14 digs and six blocks, and Talie Hammond had 23 digs.
It was the third time this season that Shaw fell short against Columbus.
"I thought we were a little better offensively," Shaw coach Lindsay Dunton said. "Things we've been working on looked better. But serve receive just killed us."
Dunton said her players worked hard all week and hoped to have an opportunity to defeat Columbus. When they were unable to do that, she said she was proud at the way they rebounded.
"It's hard to get back out there after a tough loss like that," Dunton said. "I was proud that they didn't fold. We're happy to be alive, and we've got to get back in the gym tomorrow to work on some things."
If all goes according to plan against Fayette County, Shaw could have another shot at Columbus on Saturday. Dunton, however, wasn't entertaining that possibility just yet.
"We're really just taking it one match at a time right now," she said. "Not even that. We're taking it one game at a time."
Fleming did, however, mention the possibility of facing Shaw again Saturday, and she said it's important that her girls never let their guard down.
"Shaw is a very strong team," she said. "We had to bring our A-game today, and we'll have to bring it if we face them again."
For now, the Lady Blue Devils will turn their focus to arguably the best team in the state, Sandy Creek, which beat them in a three-game match last week.
Fleming said that, despite the loss to Sandy Creek, the game her team won signaled that the Lady Patriots could be beat.
"Our girls have a lot of confidence going forward," she said.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Shaw defeated Troup in the first round in two games, and Fayette County swept LaGrange and lost to Sandy Creek. Troup eliminated Banneker in the opening game of the losers bracket before it was eliminated, 2-0, by Fayette County. Shaw played a third, and final, match, sweeping LaGrange to advance to the semifinals.
Opening matches of the semifinals will be played at 10 a.m. Saturday at Sandy Creek.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571