For the first time during the 2013 Class AAAA playoffs, the Columbus High volleyball team faced a bit of a challenge.
It responded, however, the same way it has all season.
The Lady Blue Devils swept visiting Chestatee in the quarterfinals on Saturday, winning 25-20, 25-13 and 25-10. The win puts them back in the state semifinals for the second consecutive year, where they will face Sandy Creek in a rematch of last year’s state championship and this year’s region championship. Columbus came out on top in the latter and is 3-1 against the Lady Patriots this season, but it will try to avenge its loss in the finals last year.
“We’re 3-1 against them this year,” Columbus coach Donna Fleming said of the upcoming semifinals match. “In the playoffs, though, records go out the window. They’re a strong team.”
Chestatee proved to be a pretty strong opponent, as well. Playing in only its second playoffs in school history, last year being the first, the Lady War Eagles won their first two playoff matches with relative ease. Still, they entered Saturday’s match against top-seeded Columbus as a heavy underdog.
It responded well in the opening game of the match, never trailing by more than six and tying the score late at 18-18. After trailing 17-12, it scored four consecutive points and six of seven to tie the score. Columbus did what it usually does in that situation, however, responding with kill by Brianna Gogins, who took the set and slammed the ball with authority on to the Chestatee side of the net.
Columbus had much better control of the match from that point forward, improving on some mistakes Fleming said they made in the opening game and preventing Chestatee from stringing together runs of more than two points in the final two games.
“Our ball control got better,” she said of the second and third games. “We were able to run our middle attack much better. (The middle attack) is all predicated on ball control.”
The Lady Blue Devils’ middle attack, led by Gogins and Shardonee Hayes, is perhaps the most dangerous facet of their offense. Gogins finished the match with 11 kills, while Hayes followed closely behind with nine. Natalie Twyford also added seven kills, and setter Madison Fleming had 31 assists.
All total, Columbus tallied 11 aces, 36 kills, 30 digs and three blocks.
Columbus will host Sandy Creek in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday. River Ridge and Marist will play in the other semifinal.
Saturday at Columbus
Chestatee 20 13 10
Columbus 25 25 25
Team leaders: Chestatee, Melanie Smith 5 kills, 3 digs, Grace Brown 7 kills, 4 digs, 3 aces, Breezy Walker 2 kills, 7 assists, Tyler Bennett 2 kills, 10 assists; Columbus, Brianna Gogins 11 kills, 2 aces, 1 block, Shardonee Hayes 9 kills, Natalie Twyford 7 kills, 1 dig, Madison Fleming 31 assists, 1 ace, 5 digs, Kennedy Smith 4 aces, 8 digs, 1 assist. Records: Chestatee, 26-17; Columbus, 41-14. Next: Columbus, Wednesday vs. Sandy Creek at home.