Published Sunday, October 21, 2012
By DOUG GORMAN
The Newnan Lady Cougars and the Northgate Lady Vikings volleyball teams are headed to the Sweet 16. Both squads are enjoying the ride.
Newnan will be play host to fifth-ranked Chattahoochee starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Northgate travels to Apalachee on Tuesday with hopes of also advancing to the Elite 8.
For Newnan it has been a magical season.
After winning just three matches last year, Newnan rededicated itself and it has paid off in the form of a 24-19 record.
Northgate, which is ranked fifth in the most recent gasports.com Class AAAAA poll, is 28-20.
“We are just really excited about getting the chance to still play,” Newnan head coach Leslie Fant said. “I am really happy for our seniors.”
Newnan came into the state tournament fresh off a second-place performance at the Area 2-AAAAAA tournament after losing to rival East Coweta in the finals.
“We really wanted to win area,” Fant said. “We thought we were good enough to win it, but I told the girls afterwards to regroup and let’s go as far as we can in state.”
On Thursday, Newnan rolled past McEachern in the first round of the tournament, sweeping them in three games.
Northgate traveled to the coastal part of the state and beat Glynn Academy in Brunswick to set up its second-round match.
The first-round victory erased some bad memories of last year’s first-round loss to Rockdale after the Lady Vikings blew a 2-0 lead.
“We went down there and played with a sense of purpose,” Northgate coach Matt Trucks said right after the win.
The Lady Vikings entered the state tournament as the No. 3-seeded team from Area 4-AAAAA. With five-ranked teams, Area 4-AAAAA might be the toughest in the state.
Apalachee dominated in Area 8-AAAAA play while finishing region play undefeated and eventually earning its No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The Lady Wildcats improved to 39-9 this season with a 3-1 first-round victory over Sequoyah.
Fant says just staying focused at the task in front of them helped the Lady Cougars cruise past McEachern to open the tournament.
“I told our girls that we were as good and equal to them, and we could play with them,” Fant said.
The Newnan coach said she realized even before the season started there was potential for this to be a banner year.
“I saw it in the summer,” Fant said. “We have more girls playing club volleyball now, and that has made a tremendous difference.”
To keep their magical run going, the Lady Cougars are going to have to beat a Chattahoochee team that is ranked seventh in the Class AAAAAA poll.
Chattahoochee's season including a trip to Kentucky where it played three matches against high school powers from Louisville. Right before the postseason, it also played matches against teams from South Carolina.
To get to the Sweet 16, Chattahoochee, also known as the Lady Cougars, beat North Gwinnett 3-1.
“We know they are good and they traditionally have a really good program,” Fant said. “We just have to stay focused.”
Newnan has been getting solid play out of its middle hitters, Julie Masonheimer and Alison Cash.
In last week’s first-round sweep, Cash led the way with 11 kills. Up front, Newnan has been paced by Mimi Yancey and Ayla Brewer.
Regardless of what happens against Chattahoochee, the future is bright for the Lady Cougars as only Yancey and Brewer graduate.
Back-line specialists Maggie Darracott and Kayla Price are among the sophomores who will return next season with two years of eligibility left.
Northgate has spread around the wealth en route to it hopes of capturing a Class AAAAAA title.
Seniors Elle McCord and Brittany Scarbrough have helped lead the Lady Vikings through a tough region and non-region schedule.
Scarbrough had 25 assists in the victory against Glynn Academy. McCord added 10 kills. Junior Randee Harvel tallied 8 kills.