Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Brookwood's Samantha Gratton (9) watches the ball go past Etowah's Jenna Lea (9) and Taylor Kimber (24) during Tuesday's match.
SNELVILLE -- With everything hanging in the balance in Game 5 of its Class AAAAA state volleyball second-round matchup against Etowah, Brookwood was nine points away from elimination and a sudden end to the season.
But a common theme started to ring true for the Broncos -- play to practice tomorrow.
Riding that wave of emotion, Brookwood rallied from a 6-2 deficit in that fifth and deciding game to win 13 of the next 18 points for a 15-11 win and a berth in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
"We played (Etowah) earlier this season and they worked us over in the final game, 15-6," said Brookwood head coach Brian Welsch. "So I had to remind our team that we win and we practice tomorrow -- we lose and we stay home. We talked about that last week, yesterday and we talked about it tonight. It was as simple as that. Calm down, make the pass, play our game and make the comeback."
Brookwood and Etowah had split the first four games of the best-of-five match with Brookwood claiming Games 2 and 3 (27-25 and 25-18), while Etowah had taken Games 1 and 4 (25-17 and 25-22) to set up the exciting winner-take-all Game 5.
Etowah (30-21), ranked No. 5 in the state, took an early lead in Game 5 as the Eagles raced out to 6-2 advantage by serving well and coming up with the crucial point.
But Brookwood (38-11) reeled off five of the next six points to pull even at 7-7.
From there, the Broncos had the confidence and the game to take the match.
Tied at 8-8, Sam Gratton got a block for a 9-8 Brookwood lead.
Then Erin Shelton came up with a kill for a 10-8 lead, forcing an Etowah timeout.
An error by the Eagles and a service winner by Colleen Thompson gave Brookwood a 12-8 lead.
But Etowah had one last push and the Eagles rolled off three straight points to cut the Brookwood lead to 12-11.
However, a pair of kills from Gratton and Shelton, respectively, put Brookwood ahead at 14-11.
And when the final Etowah shot sailed long past the base line, ninth-ranked Brookwood was on its way to the round of eight for a second consecutive year.
Shelton led the way for Brookwood with 20 kills and a block while Gratton had 10 kills and three aces.
Along with Thompson's eight kills, Maggie Collins added five blocks Hannah Kitchen came up with three aces for Brookwood.
Bethany Easom was solid with 50 assists and one big block in the match.
Jenna Wilt led Etowah with 23 kills and three blocks while Megan Emery had 12 kills and five blocks.
Jenna Lea added 16 kills, Taylor Kimber had seven blocks and Chelsea Brady had 41 assists and three blocks for the Eagles.