High School Volleyball
Northgate looks to upset No. 1 McIntosh tonight
by Doug Gorman
The No. 4-ranked Northgate Lady Vikings volleyball team is headed to tonight’s Final Four showdown against No.-1-ranked McIntosh with upset on its mind. Tonight’s 6 p.m. match at McIntosh will be the third meeting between the two Region 4-AAAAA teams with the Lady Chiefs winning both matches in two straight games.
It’s also the second time in the last five months that the two schools will meet in a girls GHSA semifinal after facing off on the soccer field last May at McIntosh in a game won by the eventual state champion Lady Vikings in an upset.
Seeded fifth in the state tournament, Northgate’s volleyball team set up a rematch with the Lady Chiefs by defeating another 4-AAAAA rival Whitewater (21-25, 25-16, 25-12, 25-18) in the Elite 8.
Tonight’s winner advances to Saturday’s Class AAAAA championship match in Marietta.
Northgate head coach Matt Trucks isn’t allowing his team too spend too much time dwelling on the previous two meetings between the Lady Vikings (30-25) and Lady Chiefs (40-6).
He knows his team is capable of pulling off the upset and advancing to the title game for the first time in school history if they play a near perfect game.
“There are no secrets,” he said. “We know what they have, and they know what we have. It’s going to come down to execution, can we execute better than they can, and can we get a couple of breaks here and there. In order to win championships, you have to have some breaks.”
Trucks likes his team’s game plan for coming up with the upset following losses of 25-22, 25-13 and 25-11, 25-12 during the regular season.
“We know where they hit from,” he said. “Wendy (Weaver) is a good coach, and knows what she is doing.”
Northgate advanced this far in the Class AAAAA tournament thanks to seniors Randee Harvel, Erin Valentine and Michaella Crooks, as well as junior captain Lexi Rose.
“The focus is there,” Trucks said. “Wanting a state championship is just not enough,” he said. “The one thing I have preached all year is what are you willing to do to make it happen. It has just been in the last few weeks, where I think they are finally saying ‘I get that’. “I think a lot of that comes from my seniors, and my junior captain. Those four have done a great job buying in and passing it on.”
In order to beat McIntosh, it comes down to finding a way to contain twins Rhegan and Rhana Mitchell.
Northgate proved during its three state tournament victories, it won’t back down against anybody.
The Lady Vikings beat Lithia Springs in a five-set showdown, (25-17, 23-25, 25-15, 25-21, 15-11) to advance to the Sweet 16.
Their sweep of Houston County (25-19, 25-16 and 25-19) moved the Lady Vikings on to the Elite 8.
Whitewater defeated Northgate twice at the Region 4-AAAAA tournament, but the Lady Vikings won the most important matchup Saturday to keep their championship hopes alive.
The Lady Wildcats won the first set during the Elite 8, but Northgate was able to rally for three straight wins.
“We have seen a good mix of teams,” Trucks said. “I think we are ready. Right now we are focused on showing up and playing McIntosh. The focus is there. What I saw Saturday was a team with a lot of resolve. They know only one team is going to finish the year with a win.”
McIntosh grabbed the No. 1-ranking in the Class AAAAA coaches’ poll early in the season and kept it thanks to a dominating performance in Region 4-AAAAA competition.
The Lady Chiefs rolled through league play with a 14-0 record that included sweeps in all 14 matches.
McIntosh made its way into the Final Four with wins over Loganville, Pope and Greenbrier.
Two of the Lady Chiefs’ six losses this season came in 2-1 decisions against Chattanooga, the third-ranked team in Class AAAAAA.
“To be the best,” Trucks said. “You have to beat the best.”
Class AAAAA Final Four
Northgate (30-25) at No.1-ranked McIntosh (40-6)
Tonight, 6 p.m. at McIntosh High School, Peachtree City
What to Know:This is Northgate’s second trip to the Final Four. McIntosh beat Northgate twice in the regular season and finished with a perfect 14-0 record in Region 4-AAAAA. The Lady Vikings advanced to this years Class AAAAA Final Four with tournament wins over Lithia Springs, Houston County, and Whitewater. McIntosh advanced to the Final four by beating Loganville, Pope and Greenbrier.