Broncos defend area volleyball title

LAWRENCEVILLE -- There was a moment or two early Saturday afternoon when bragging rights in Area 8-AAAAA volleyball tilted toward the underdog.

But when all was said and done, the defending area champion found its stride as top-seeded Brookwood claimed a 18-25, 25-16, 25-11, 25-9 win over No. 3 seed Mountain View in the best-of-five championship match.

Brookwood (36-11) moves on to the state tournament and will host first-round action starting Thursday.

Brookwood had dispatched of Parkview earlier in the day with a 25-27, 25-19, 25-18 win to earn its way into the title match.

Then the Broncos had to sit and wait as Mountain View got past Dacula 25-19, 25-22 and Parkview 25-10, 25-20 to work its way into the championship match.

Mountain View rode that momentum by taking the first game from Brookwood 25-18, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and then held off some Broncos' rallies to pull away with an 8-2 run to finish the game.

But Brookwood would regroup as the Broncos took the next four games -- 25-16, 25-11, 25-9 -- as Mountain View began tire in its third match of the day.

Brookwood jumped out to a 12-6 lead in Game 2 and built on that lead to win by nine.

The Broncos jumped ahead 10-6 in Game 3 and then rattled off a 15-5 run to set the stage for a championship in the next game.

In Game 4, Brookwood used an early 8-1 spurt to break a 4-4 tie and closed by winning 13 of the next 17 points en route to the title.

"Every year this area (8-AAAAA) is strong and we thought we were going to have a down year," said Brookwood head coach Brian Welsch. "But all summer we worked hard and we had a bunch of seniors and juniors step up. This group bought in to what we were doing and they didn't ask a bunch of questions. I thought our girls had earned a chance at winning this tournament, but we still had to perform on the court.

"And I give a lot of credit to Mountain View for what they've done in just three years. (Mountain View) got our attention early and I had to remind our team of our motto -- 'To Play Us' -- and that means play Brookwood volleyball. I think we did that in those final four games."

Erin Shelton led the way for the Broncos with 10 kills, five aces and one block while Sam Gratton had 10 kills, four blocks and two aces. Maggie Collins added 10 kills and a block and Colleen Thompson chipped in six kills and five aces. Bethany Easom had 43 assists for Brookwood.

Mountain View (21-24) was paced by Ashley Proffitt's 15 assists, six digs and two kills while Alex Johnson had six kills and four assists. Meredith Allison added 18 digs and Jayla French had six kills and two digs for the Bears.

"If you know anything about our overall history, we didn't win one game in one match in our first season," said Mountain View head coach Stan Carpenter of the third-year program. "Then we won some matches last year and this year we've been around .500. So to finish third in this area is an accomplishment for this team. We rose to the occasion and beating Parkview was huge because we had lost to them twice already this season.

"But we knew it would be tough against Brookwood since we were playing our third match of the day and they're such a solid program. But we competed and I'm proud of what we accomplished."

Shelton was named the most valuable player of Area 8-AAAAA and she was joined on the all-area team by Elana Do of Berkmar, Sharifa Bell of Archer, Katie Kraft and Easom of Brookwood, Lexi Travis of Central Gwinnett, Kimberly MacIntyre of Dacula, Erica Brown of Grayson, Proffitt and Johnson of Mountain View, and Courtney Duck and Daron Blankenship of Parkview.

Along with Brookwood and Mountain View, Parkview and Dacula will also represent Area 8-AAAAA in next week's state tournament.