After losing both of their matches against Westminster during the regular season, the Lady Lions finally beat their archrival to win the Class AA state championship Saturday.
It took Lovett the full five sets to win as it came back from a 2-1 deficit in sets to beat the Wildcats 25-23, 25-27, 22-25, 25-23, 15-13 in a classic battle at Marietta High School.
It is the first state volleyball title for Lovett (21-13), which had finished runner-up three years in a row from 2006 to ‘08.
“First one in school history, been here three other times, so it’s very special for this 2012 team,” Lovett coach Mary Buczek said. “Coming from behind made it even more exciting. They just hung in there tough. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Lovett led most of the way in the first set as the Lady Lions jumped out to a 9-4 lead before Westminster closed the gap and kept it tight after that.
Westminster (28-12) nearly fell behind 2-0 as it trailed 25-24 in the second set, but the Lady Wildcats scored three unanswered points to even things up at 1-all.
The third set was another close-fought battle as Westminster took the lead midway through and held on to a narrow advantage the rest of the way.
Lovett appeared to have the fourth set under control with a 20-13 lead, but Westminster proceeded to score eight unanswered points to take a 21-20 lead.
However, the Lady Lions proceeded to score three unanswered points and went on to eke out a narrow win to even the match at two sets apiece.
Westminster appeared on its way to claiming its eighth state title as it stormed out to a 9-4 lead in the fifth and final set.
Lovett picked itself back up and fought back, however, as it went on a 9-0 run to take a 13-9 lead.
Westminster responded with four straight points of its own to tie the set at 13-13, but kills by Harley Sebastian and Mary Bethany Vincent sealed the win and the state title for Lovett.
It was the first time that the archrivals played in a best-of-five set match in the three contests they played this season. Westminster won the first meeting in three sets (20-25, 25-22, 25-21) Sept. 18 and also took the second contest in two sets (25-23, 30-28) Oct. 9.
“Every time we played them, we’ve played two out of three [sets] and we feel like our team is stronger and can play longer,” Buczek said. “We knew it was going to be a battle and it was.”
Lovett, the fourth seed, upset top-seeded Wesleyan 25-23, 25-27, 22-25, 25-23, 15-13, while second-seed Westminster beat third-seed Greater Atlanta Christian 25-19, 25-19, 18-25, 26-24 in AA semifinal action last Wednesday.