After losing to Blessed Trinity in the AAA finals last year, it was St. Pius which came out on top this time with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 25-18) victory over the Titans.
"Obviously, it was disappointing to lose in the final," Blessed Trinity coach Paul Stevens said. "But, I'm not at all upset and I don't have regrets. I feel like the girls executed well in the finals. They did everything we asked them to do. As I tried to explain to the girls after the match, it's hard to see it at that moment, but when a little bit of time elapses and they are able to look at the season, they will be able to see how remarkable this season really was."
t was the third time in as many matches that Blessed Trinity lost to its Area 5AAA rival. The Titans lost to the Golden Lions 2-0 (25-21, 27-25) in a regular-season match Oct. 1 and again 3-2 (21-25, 25-15, 22-25, 27-25, 15-12) in the 5AAA tournament finals Oct. 10.
A strong performance by St. Pius’ Leah Hardeman, who recorded 35 kills, was a big factor for the Golden Lions in their win.
"The first two times we played them, she played well, to be sure, but not as well as she did in the state finals," Stevens said. "The 35 kills she had is tied for the second most of any player in a single match in Georgia volleyball history. It was an insane number of kills and we didn't have an answer for her."
St. Pius led most of the way as it won the first set 25-21 and again in the second set 25-22.
It was Blessed Trinity that was in control in the third set as it ran out to an 18-11, though the Titans had to survive a late 14-4 run by the Golden Lions to hold on to win the set.
St. Pius reasserted control in the fourth set as it led most of the way, with Hardeman’s kill providing the final point in the Golden Lions’ 25-18 win and clinching of the state title.
"After the second set, they were definitely re-energized and came out with something to prove, that we weren't going to roll over and all that," Stevens said. "It would have been pretty easy for our players to fold up the tent at that point. But they were determined to fight until the very end, which they did, and I'm proud of the way they did that."
Molly McAlvany had 18 kills and 18 digs, while Maggie Rick had 23 assists and Amber McDonald had 22 digs to lead the way for Blessed Trinity.
The Titans reached the finals with a 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 25-22) win over Woodward Academy in the AAA semifinals last Wednesday.
McAlvany had 19 kills and 17 digs, while Rick had 26 assists and 13 digs, Andreas Soares had 13 assists and McDonald had 12 digs for the Titans in their win over Woodward.
While Blessed Trinity will be losing seniors McAlvany, Sabrina Hansen and Katie Ray, who each played key roles in its run to the AAA title match the last two years, the Titans will return most of their core players as they look for a third straight trip to the finals in 2014.
Another north Fulton fell short of a state title as Chattahoochee lost to Walton 3-1 (27-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-19) in the AAAAAA championship match at Marietta High School last Friday.