In a wild, back-and-forth match, the Brookstone volleyball team was able to find a way to escape the pesky visitors, Aquinas High.
The Lady Cougars escaped its first-round matchup on Thursday at home, winning 3-2 (25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 14-25, 15-12) to advance to the second round, where it will host the winner of George Walton Academy-Pinecrest Academy.
Despite being a matchup between a 1-seed and a 4-seed, the lower-seeded visitors were more than prepared to keep up with Brookstone.
Both teams set the tone early with a close 25-18 win for Brookstone in the first game and a 25-20 win for Aquinas in the second.
As each point became more meaningful in the third game, the crowd, which grew as the match went on, got louder and the match more intense.
"It was definitely a lot of fun," Brookstone coach Cindy Todt said of the atmosphere in the gymnasium.
"The crowd was great, the fan support was excellent. I think that really helped us maintain our energy and intensity."
That became necessary after a difficult third game took its toll on both teams.
The game nearly went the distance, concluding in a 25-22 win for the Lady Cougars.
Neither team had a clear advantage throughout the set.
Brookstone jumped to a 4-0 lead, but quickly fell behind 6-5. Down 7-5, the Lady Cougars scored four consecutive points to take a 9-7 lead and later extended that to 16-12.
Every time they appeared to take control of the game, however, Aquinas battled back.
Finally, after Aquinas tied the game at 21-21, Brookstone jumped ahead 24-21, and finished two points later.
It was clear that the rigorous game had worn down the Lady Cougars, however, in the third game. Aquinas cruised, putting together rallies of four points, three points twice and six points twice, eventually winning the game 25-14 and evening up the match at two games apiece.
The visitors grabbed a commanding 8-4 lead in the deciding game, but, backed by the raucous crowd, Brookstone made 11 of the final 15 points to win and advance in the Class A playoffs.
"The team turned the corner a couple weeks ago, and I think that showed today," Todt said.
She added that a victory in such a hard-fought contest like Thursday's can carry over into the next round.
"Maintaining the enthusiasm like this can definitely carry over," she said.
"Obviously, our next opponent will be a great team, so we'll have to step up. There are no easy matches anymore."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571
Thursday at Brookstone
Aquinas 18 25 22 25 12
Brookstone 25 20 25 14 15
Leaders: Brookstone-- Santreece Stephens, 16 kills, Joanna Leger, 18 assists, Collie Holt, 9 kills. Records: Brookstone--19-12. Next match: Aquinas-- season over. Brookstone-- Tuesday vs. George Walton-Pinecrest winner.