Staff Photo: John Bohn North Gwinnett's Gretja Otten (23) dives for a ball hit down the line, as North Gwinnett goes on to defeat Mill Creek to win the area 6-AAAAAA girls volleyball tournament finals played Saturday at Collins Hill.
SUWANEE -- North Gwinnett used a balanced attack and got a little revenge from a couple of regular-season losses as the Bulldogs knocked off top-seeded Mill Creek 3-1 in the best-of-five championship match for the Area 6-AAAAAA girls volleyball tournament at Collins Hill High School.
North (39-6), which came into the tournament as the No. 2 seed, won 25-21, 25-15, 23-25, 25-19 to claim its third straight area title and will go into this week's Class AAAAAA state tournament as the top seed from 6-AAAAAA.
Mill Creek (41-10) had defeated North in two regular-season meetings, but the Bulldogs were ready for the challenge in the area tournament and defeated the Hawks twice to claim the championship.
"We didn't exactly run through this tournament because we had to earn everything we got," said North head coach Vanessa Henry. "(Mill Creek) had beaten us twice in the regular season, including the Gwinnett County semifinals. But we definitely needed this and it is a huge plus for us, because we felt like we were strong enough to win it. We were so balanced today on the court and I'm proud of the way we played overall."
After a 25-9, 25-27, 25-21 win over Mill Creek in the semifinals, North moved into the championship match and awaited its opponent.
Meanwhile, Mill Creek dropped into the loser's bracket and took a 25-22, 25-14 win over No. 4 seed Habersham Central to set up the rematch with North.
Habersham Central had defeated No. 7 seed Collins Hill 25-19, 25-15 to advance and face Mill Creek with the winner getting North in the final.
In the championship match, North was solid in getting a lead in each set and maintaining the advantage for a majority of the time.
In the first set, North took an 8-all tie and eventually built a 20-14 lead before taking a 25-21 win.
The second set also belonged to North as the Bulldogs jumped out to an 18-12 lead and finished it off with a 10-point win at 25-15.
Mill Creek didn't quit and rallied to win the third set as the Hawks caught North at 17-17 and then pulled out a two-point win at 25-23.
But North was ready in the fourth set.
The Bulldogs broke a tie at 7-7 and never lost the lead en route to the six-point win at 25-19.
"We simply didn't play well enough to win and (North) did," said Mill Creek head coach Brian Williamson. "I know that's not very detailed, but it's the way it happened. We fought to the end, but we just made too many mistakes to win. We are still looking forward to state even though it will be a tough draw. But we will be ready."
North was led by Kristina Stinson's 24 kills while Miller Howard had 18 kills to go along with six serving aces.
MaTia Hughes racked up 49 assists and Gretja Otten had 28 digs for the Bulldogs.
Stinson, Howard, Hughes and Otten were named to the all-area tournament team for North.
Mill Creek's attack was paced by Cayla Graham's 14 kills and Emily Wylie had 13 kills.
Kaitlyn Lattimer added 20 assists and Carley Eiken had 18 assists for the Hawks.
Audrey Hoffman had 5 -1/2 blocks and Brittany Moore came up with 16 digs for Mill Creek.
Wylie, Lattimer and Hoffman were named to the all-area tournament team for the Hawks.
Peachtree Ridge's Natassja Thomas and Cosette Morche, Habersham Central's Haley Gerrin, Mountain View's Kelsey Hutchins, and Collins Hill's Jennifer Ahlswede were also named to the Area 6-AAAAAA tournament team.
Habersham Central (24-12) will be the No. 3 seed and Collins Hill (16-22) the fourth seed out of Area 6-AAAAAA in the state volleyball tournament coming up later this week.