Lady Vikings reach end of the line
by Doug Gorman
PEACHTREE CITY-Northgate's volleyball season came to an abrupt halt Wednesday night in the Class AAAAA Final Four.
Area rival McIntosh (42-6) showed why it holds both a No. 1 state-ranking as well as the top seed in the AAAAA tournament, sweeping the No. 7-ranked Lady Vikings 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-14).
It ended Northgate's season with a 30-26 overall record, with three of the losses coming to the Lady Chiefs.
McIntosh has yet to drop a game in the postseason heading into Friday's 5:30 p.m. state final in Marietta against Sequoyah.
'They are going to be hard to beat,' said Northgate head coach Matt Trucks. 'They do so ma ny t h i ngs wel l . Whether they play Sequoyah or Dunwoody, those teams are going to have their hands full.'
The loss ends the Lady Vikings' run after they advanced to the Final Four by beating Lithia Springs, Houston County and Whitewater to set up just its second trip ever to the Final Four.
Northgate played its way into the GHSA Final Four while finishing fourth out of Region 4-AAAAA and winning three straight state tournament matches on the road.
The Lady Chiefs were as good as advertised getting solid play from twins Rhana and Rhegan Mitchell. Abbi Schelkopf also added plenty of spark to the McIntosh lineup.
After dropping its first two sets, Northgate played its best volleyball early in the third game, taking its first lead of the night when it jumped out to a 6-2 lead behind the play of Randee Harvel, McKenzie Crenshaw and Kalie Whiddon.
Northgate led 7-4 and took its last lead at 9-8 before the Lady Chiefs pulled out front for good.
During the 10-minute break after the second set, Trucks urged his team to keep fighting.
'We never quit,' he said. 'We never stopped. That's what I take away from this.'
Early in the third set, the momentum appeared to be in the Lady Vikings favor when it built a four-point lead. Michella Crooks closed out her career with some solid play at the net. It was the last high school volleyball game for Crooks, Harvel and Erin Valentine.
'It hurts to see them go,' Trucks said. 'They all came up through the JV program, and to me that means a lot. These kids worked hard and actually learned how to play. They played club ball and just got better. When you see them go from where they started, that is special. As a coach that means the world.'
Several new marks were broken during the 2013 season.
Harvel set the single-season record for kills during the team's playoff victory over Lithia Springs, and Savannah Moore had more than 100 blocks for the second year in a row.
A spirited student body turned out for both teams standing most of the match and matching back-and-forth chants, one of which was 'See You Friday,' in reference to the two schools annual football showdown, with the loser potentially out of state playoff contention.
At the end of the night, Trucks escorted the team to Northgate's cheering section to thank them for turning out.
'It was great to see,' Trucks said. 'We had members of the softball team here. They are headed to Columbus for the Elite 8 tomorrow, and yet they showed up. We had some of the football team here after they finished (practice). They are getting ready to play an important game against this same school, and they were here. We have a great student body and it means a lot. Our student body is awesome.'