No. 9 North Cobb eliminates Norcross in three sets

NORCROSS -- As Area 8-AAAAAA champion and a No. 1 seed, Norcross had the advantage of being at home for its second-round volleyball match with North Cobb.

But what the Blue Devils didn't have was much state tournament experience or a tough opening match to build off.

"I think we were a little more ready," North Cobb coach James Auld said. "We had a really difficult match in the first round and I think that prepared us."

The No. 9-ranked Warriors (34-14) needed five tight sets to defeat Etowah in its opener last week, but they were in control against Norcross (37-8) on Tuesday night.

The Blue Devils never quit and held a late lead in the third set, but lost 25-17, 25-14 and 25-22 before a large and enthusiastic crowd at the House of Blue.

"They were definitely the more experienced team," Norcross coach Jeff Cerneka said. "I'll give them all the credit in the world. They're a great defensive team. But I'm proud of my girls, too. We're a young team. We'll be back."

The Blue Devils, which coasted past Grayson in the first round, had two key seniors in Lindsay Holmes and Javonne Stanfield, but will return most of their regulars from a team that won the school's first area title since 2008.

Sydney Marshall had eight kills, eight digs and five blocks against North Cobb, while Kolby Meeks registered 14 kills and Iana Dingle contributed 10 digs. All are juniors. Sammie Baker, who is just a freshman, had 27 assists.

"They are a very aggressive team at the net, so they have the capability of really putting the ball down if you're not careful and handle the ball well," North Cobb's Auld said.

North Cobb, which was second in Area 3-AAAAAA behind No. 2-ranked Harrison, led almost all the first two sets before Norcross, facing elimination, came alive in the third.

The Blue Devils jumped to a 13-8 lead and were up 19-16 and 21-20. But North Cobb wouldn't falter.

"They have a lot of great athletes and they are coached very well," Auld said of the Blue Devils. "If you don't take care of the ball, they can make things very difficult, like they did in the third set."

Tate Pember had 33 digs for North Cobb. Savanna Gonzales contributed 12 kills and Shauntell Luke had four kills to go with two blocks. All are seniors. Taylor Parrish, a freshman, had 33 assists.

Holmes had 21 digs and fellow senior Stanfield 10 for Norcross.

North Cobb also beat Norcross early in the regular season, that match going the distance. Auld wouldn't be surprised to face the Blue Devils in the state tournament again next year.

"Jeff is a very good coach and they should be a really good team next year," the North Cobb coach said. "They'll be tough to beat."