High School Volleyball

Lady Indians repeats as 2-AAAAAA champions

by Doug Gorman

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An East Coweta volleyball team that has received key contributions from senior libero Savannah Freeman (left) and junior outside hitter Jessica Bartholomew will enter the Class AAAAAA tournament as a No. 1 seed for the second consecutive year after repeating as Area 2-AAAAAA champions. The Lady Indians will host a first-round state playoff match on Thursday at John Thrower Gym.

LOCUST GROVE-East Coweta and Newnan could have saved itself some travel in deciding this year's Area 2-AAAAAA volleyball championship by just staying closer to home.

After all, the two teams travelled to Luella High School in Henry County only to meet up in the finals after each dominated area play throughout the regular season.

The county rivals wound up meeting twice on Saturday, both of which ending with East Coweta coming out on top, with the final victory giving the Lady Indians its second consecutive Area 2-AAAAAA Championship.

East Coweta beat its rivals (25-17, 25-16) in the winner's bracket contest to advance to the best-of-five rematch between the two teams.

Newnan came back out of the loser's bracket with a victory (25-13, 25-10) over Luella. In the match to decide the region championship, East Coweta swept Newnan (25-13, 25-10, 25-12).

Both teams earned the right to stay home to open the Class AAAAAA tournament next Thursday.

The Lady Indians enter the single-elimination event with a 42-6 record. Newnan goes to to the postseason with a 29-15 record.

East Coweta's success came in Amber McClure's first year as head coach.

'It says a lot about the program and the individuals that were here before me,' They already had the desire and passion for the game. It didn't take much hemline to get people to train and work hard,' McClure said.

In the three sets against the Lady Cougars, Jessi Bartholomew finished with 13 kills.

Haylea Mannebach closed out the region championship with 8 kills.

Sydney Mauer set up points with 31 assists, and April Schmitt added eight digs.

Key serving helped the Lady Indians' success as they finished with 14 aces in the finals, including five from Riley Padgett.

Dominique Ingram added three blocks and Padgett two.

In the first set of the championship, East Coweta trailed 4-3, but after pulling away from a 6-6 tie the Lady Indians never trailed again.

In the second set East Coweta led 7-0, allowing Newnan its fewest points of the day en route to its 25-10 win.

Newnan overcame some adversity this season just to get back to state.

Early in the campaign, the Lady Cougars lost setter Tiffany Maes to a knee injury.

Julie Masonheimer moved over to play setter in Maes' absence and the Lady Cougars came up with some big wins.

'I am proud of the way she responded in her senior year,' Newnan head coach Leslie Fant said. 'She stepped it up for her senior year.'

In addition to Masonheimer's play, the Lady Cougars Allison Cash, Maggie Darracott, Shaundra Hill and Jenni Young turned in solid performances throughout the day.

While Fant is happy the Lady Cougars are headed to state, she is disappointed her club didn't fare better against their closest rivals.

'We played with McIntosh, we beat Northgate and Starr's Mill,' she said. 'There is just something about East Coweta. We did overcome a lot, but I am disappointed with the way we played East Coweta. I think it is mental because play great against everybody else but when we see them, we just get scared. We have to find a way to overcome that.'

In it's must-win match against Luella, the Lady Cougars took a 4-0 lead at the beginning of the first set, but when Newnan took the lead at 9-8, they never trailed again.

In the second set between Newnan and Luella, the Lady Cougars led all the way.

Despite the sweep by East Coweta in Saturday's first match, the Lady Cougars didn't back down in either set.

Newnan led 5-4 early in the first set, and even though East Coweta took a 20-11 led at one stage of the match, the Lady Cougars scored five straight points and cut the lead down to six before East Coweta pulled away.

In the second set, the Lady Indians pulled out to a 10-3 lead before the Lady Cougars cut it to 10-9. For most of the match, East Coweta never led by more than four points. A 6-2 run by the Lady Indians sent them to the championship round.



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