Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood's Hannah Kitchen (3) returns a shot while South Gwinnett's Deja Stanek (13) defends. Brookwood defeated South Gwinnett 3 games to 1, in a first round Class AAAAAA playoff volleyball game Thursday. At rear is Brookwood's Amelia Collins (11).
SNELLVILLE -- Although only separated by a few miles, Brookwood and South Gwinnett found themselves placed in different areas for the 2012 volleyball season as a result of reclassification and realignment.
With Brookwood winning Area 7-AAAAAA and South taking the fourth seed from Area 8-AAAAAA, the cross-town rivals were pitted against each other in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs on Tuesday night.
After sweeping South twice during the regular season, Brookwood once again trumped South, this time taking the match three games to one to advance to the second round.
"They've had a great run and have played some good volleyball," Brookwood head coach Brian Welsch said of South. "I'm not surprised they came out and played us tough.
"When we serve well we see a lot of good things happen and we've had some success against South this year with that."
Brookwood wasted no time in taking the first game, jumping out to a 9-0 lead behind the strong serving of Hannah Kitchen.
That cushion wouldn't be wasted as the Broncos (24-18) went on to win 25-2, closing out the game with 14 straight service points from Kendall Hardy.
"Hannah (Kitchen) has an agressive serve and it's not an easy ball to handle," Welsch said.
The second game also went to Brookwood, but it wasn't as easy as the first as South stayed close before falling 25-17.
On the brink of being swept again by the Broncos, South played steady in Game 3, eventually pulling away for a 25-18 win.
"I was impressed with how we came back tonight," South head coach Chris Langley said. "We've had some tough times against Brookwood this year and it's easy to get down when it looks like someone has your number. It was good to see that turnaround."
Deja Stanek of South helped led the team in the win in Game 3, despite playing with an ailing knee, while Amber Nash, Aaliya Myrick and Malaisia Stallworth each pitched in.
But the momentum gained from that win quickly went away in the fourth game as the Broncos jumped ahead 10-2 and never looked back, closing out the match 25-11 when Leslie Stinnett served out the final four points.
Senior Maggie Collins had a solid game for Brookwood, leading the Broncos in kills with 10, while Stinnett and Nicole Blanding each had four. Kitchen tallied 23 assists and served four aces, while Hardy finished with five kills and four aces.
"It's nice when you have starters that do well, but it's even nicer when you have depth that can come in," Welsch said. "It's good to do that because you can't simulate playoff volleyball in practice."
The win sets Brookwood up for a home game next Tuesday against Woodstock in the tournament's second round.