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Wolverines defense too much for Brookwood

SNELLVILLE -- Early in Game 1, the Woodstock defense watched a tipped ball over the net drop between four watching defenders.

The easy point helped Brookwood build a five-point lead, but it was the last easy point the Broncos got all night. Led by defensive specialist Karly Hodgson and outside hitter Sara Graf, Woodstock kept Brookwood struggling to find points in a 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-15, 26-24) win in the Class AAAAAA state volleyball playoff.

"They were an outstanding defensive team," Brookwood head coach Brian Welsch said. "We knew that coming in. We knew they were going to be good."

In preparation for Tuesday's home playoff match, Brookwood practiced with the presumption that it would take three good swings to score one point against the Wolverines and on many possessions that was the truth.

"We did a pretty good job of blocking and of playing defense," Welsch said. "They are a scrappy bunch."

Brookwood took control of Game 1 early, getting a sideout and then No. 9 serving four straight points to give the Bronocs a 5-0 lead over Woodstock.

But the Wolverines regrouped, winning a few long rallies and eventually taking a 18-17 lead on a kill by Riley McBay.

Brookwood's Maggie Collins, tied the match at 19 with a powerful kill through the solid Woodstock defense, but from there the Broncos struggled to find points dropping six straight to lose the opening game 25-19. The senior Collins matched Leslie Stinnett for a team high with 15 kills on the night, she also had four blocks at the net.

"They way she blocks changes the way teams hit against us," Welsch said of Collins.

Things didn't change much early in the second game. The Broncos started with a quick 2-0 lead, but the Woodstock defense turned away any chance for Brookwood to string together more than a point or two. Woodstock eventually build a 16-11 lead, but Brookwood fought back. The Broncos scored four of the next five points to cut the deficit to 18-17, forcing a Woodstock timeout. A block at the net from Farrah Butter then tied the game at 18-18.

Stinnett's strong game came four days after injuring her ankle. She spent homecoming weekend rehabbing it to be ready to play Tuesday.

The two teams traded sideouts and the Broncos kept the rally alive. A pair of kills by Stinnett and another by Nicole Blanding combined with a smooth tip over the net by Stinnett to give Brookwood a 22-19 lead. Kendall Hardy added a kill before a game-sealing kill by Collins gave Brookwood the 25-23 win, knotting the match at a game apiece.

To start Game 3, Woodstock built a much more certain lead than the five-point leads both teams squandered in the first two games. Brookwood managed one sideout, before the Wolverines ripped off eight straight points taking a dominating 9-1 lead. Again led by the strong Wolverines defense, the lead just grew. At one point, with Woodstock leading 23-10, Brookwood needed seven attempts to get just a sideout, with the Wolverines turning away three strong Bronco kill attempts. Brookwood scored three straight to climb within nine points, but it was too late in a 25-15 loss.

"We knew Game 3 was almost out of reach," Welsch said. "We wanted to create some momentum heading into Game 4."

And they did.

Brookwood shot out to an early six point lead in and led by the net play of Collins, kept the lead for most of the match.

Most of it.

Leading 23-18, Brookwood watched Woodstock serve five straight points to tie the match at 23-23 and ride the late momentum to a 26-24 win.

"Losing sucks, but losing a good sized lead is tough to do," Welsh said. "I couldn't be more proud of the girls, they played their hearts out."