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Eagles get another shot at Milton

When it came to scheduling this volleyball season, Collins Hill wasn't able to make its annual trip to Milton.

Milton came to Collins Hill and beat the Eagles in their own tournament, two games to one, back on Aug. 27. Collins Hill didn't make it over to the Fulton county school during the regular season, but the Class AAAAA state playoffs have arranged that second meeting.

Collins Hill, into the Final Four for the first time in school history, gets its second chance at Milton at 5 p.m. today at Marietta High School.

"We always split," Collins Hill head coach Stan Carpenter said. "So we're hoping for that split to come back."

Collins Hill is 37-9 going into this rematch with Milton - which won the first meeting 25-20, 17-25, 25-18 - and already has met its goal of getting further than last year's sectionals berth.

"We're excited," said Carpenter, whose team has been ranked in the state's top 10 all season. "It's a big deal."

Collins Hill got through a tough sectional last weekend, coming back to defeat Area 4-AAAAA champ Central Gwinnett to advance to the state semifinals.

"We were down pretty big to Central," Carpenter said. "It was a six-point spread and Central was in the 20s.

"The girls have the ability to step up and play defense."

That will be key against Milton (45-12), which is ranked second in the state and has three big guns.

"They can run fast stuff through every one of those hitters," Carpenter said. "We're definitely not taking Milton lightly. They've always been a good program.

"I don't think Milton's taking us too lightly, either."

They shouldn't.

Collins Hill has been the No. 4 team in the state most of the season and is tremendously deep.

"I play every single player, which is unheard of mostly," Carpenter said.

Milton might enjoy a height advantage, but in addition to a great bench, Collins Hill has two of its top players nearly recovered from injury.

Jessica Davies and Katie Winschel, the team's top two hitters, have both missed time recently, but were back in limited action in the area finals. Carpenter used the dynamic duo only on the front rows and they're still experiencing some soreness, but nothing that will keep them from playing today.

Winschel leads the team with 323 kills. The senior also has 50 aces and 143 digs this season. The 6-foot Davies is second to Winschel with 166 kills, a huge jump from last year's 42.

Sam Lum, Chelsea Proffit, Rayven Tirado and Jessica Young all have over 100 kills for the two-time Area 8-AAAAA champions.

Lum tops the team in digs with 208. Kelsey Foster is the assist leader with 474 and Alex Raffalovich has 103 aces.

"We're very proud of what we've done," Carpenter said. "And we're glad to have a chance (to win the state title)."