Tied at 24 in the opening game of its semifinal match against Marist School, the Columbus volleyball team knew the importance of grabbing an early advantage.
When it did, scoring the final two points and taking the first game, there was no looking back.
The Lady Blue Devils swept Marist in three games (26-24, 25-20, 25-16) to advance to the Class AAAA state championship, which will be against Sandy Creek at 7 p.m. Saturday at Marietta High.
"That was huge," coach Donna Fleming said of the first-game win. "They had a big crowd, and it was huge to be able to sneak that first one out. It helps you relax. When you get that first win, you can settle down a little bit."
Fleming said that it was a combination of defense and minimizing errors that allowed her team to win.
"Our defense played great," she said. "We focused on controlling our serve and serving tough. Our digging and passing just really helped us to be able to run our offense.
"Marist made more errors than we made, and it's a game of errors. We put a lot of pressure on them with our serve, and it helped to
cause them to make more errors."
Fleming noted the team's confidence heading into the final match of the season. Columbus has played four matches in the playoffs and is yet to drop a single game, that it is hard to imagine that streak will continue against top-seeded Sandy Creek.
"Our goal was five wins, and we've gotten four," Fleming said. "We've put ourselves in a position to win a state championship, but it's going to be a battle."
Columbus is 0-3 this season against Sandy Creek.
Columbus was led by Natalie Twyford (8 kills, 1 block, 2 digs), Brianna Gogins (6 kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks, 4 digs), Chandler Barre (5 kills, 2 aces, 1 block, 3 digs) and Madison Fleming (24 assists, 2 aces, 2 kills, 1 block, 6 digs). Seniors Mikayla Swinson and LeighEllen McCormick added 19 and 8 digs, respectively.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571
Wednesday at Marist
Marist 24 20 16
Columbus 26 25 25
Leaders: Columbus-- Natalie Twyford 8 kills, 1 block, 2 digs; Brianna Gogins 6 kills 1 ace, 2 blocks, 4 digs; Chandler Barre 5 kills, 2 aces, 1 block, 3 digs; Shardonee Hayes 5 kills, 3 blocks, 1 dig; Brittany Griner 1 kills, 2 blocks, 2 digs; Madison Fleming 24 assists, 2 aces, 2 kills, 1 block, 6 digs; Mikayla Swinson 19 digs, 3 assists; LeighEllen McCormick 8 digs, 1 assist; Ki'anna Duncan 3 digs. Records: Marist--23-11. Columbus--30-25. Next match: Marist--Season over. Columbus--7 p.m. Saturday vs. Sandy Creek in state title game.