DULUTH — Behind the outstanding attack of Nadia Carter, Aiyana Bermudez and Sonya Silecky, Mill Creek swept rival North 25-22, 25-19, 25-23 on Friday to claim the Region 6-AAAAAAA volleyball title and a top seed for the state tournament.
To claim the championship against the Hawks’ rival was “huge,” according to coach Bo Adams.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “North Gwinnett has a great program. They have been (great) for many years. So it feels good to take it and take it in three (sets). It shows that our girls have been playing hard and working hard all season.”
North Gwinnett in no way was played out of the building. The Bulldogs (20-18) got out to a good start in the first set, winning the first point and taking leads of 4-2 and 7-4 early. The Hawks (39-7) rallied with a 5-1 run, including three straight kills by Bermudez (12 kills, 1 ace), to get up 16-14.
North followed with a 6-0 run that put them up 20-16 and seemingly in good shape to close out a first set win. But Mill Creek came back with an 9-2 run, including a pair of aces each by Carter (8 kills, 4 aces) and Silecky (11 kills, 2 aces), to finish off the set 25-22.
Mill Creek started out the second set better, getting out to a 6-2 lead after three kills from Bermudez, who was named the Region Player of the Year after the tournament, and a kill each from Silecky and Carter. North came back strong after a timeout, earning points on a kill by Ramey Salyer (2 kills, 7 blocks, 2 digs) and blocks by Salyer and Joya Screen (9 kills, 7 blocks, 2 digs) to draw back to within a point at 7-6.
That was as close as the Bulldogs would get in the set. A 7-1 run with kills by Carter, Bermudez and Mar’ria Phillips put the Hawks up 20-11. North made a comeback effort, but the hole was too deep and Adriana Ackerman (34 assists, 3 kills) put the set away with a kill for a 25-19 win.
Its back against the wall, North came out in the third set and got up 2-0 and held a 5-3 lead after Salyer and Screen combined on a block. North proceeded to roll off a 6-1 run, led by three straight kills from Silecky, for a 9-6 advantage.
North kept fighting back, getting a kill from Joya Screen and a pair from Jada Screen to cut the deficit to 12-11. But the Bulldogs just couldn’t make enough runs to overcome their deficit. Izzy Durnell and Joya Screen added kills in the set, but it couldn’t offset pairs of kills by the Hawks’ Silecky and Bermudez, and a thunderous kill by Carter.
Down 24-21, North got a couple of points to inch toward staying alive, but a block by Ainsley Larence gave the Hawks the set win, the region championship and a No. 1 seed going into the state tournament.
North coach Kristina Stinson spoke about finding ways to regroup after a loss to a rival and making a better showing going into the state tournament as a No. 2 seed.
“It just comes down to us mainly,” she said. “It comes down to what we need to do on our side, what we need to control. Ultimately, if we play North Gwinnett volleyball and we play up to our ability, then great things are going to happen.
“Obviously we’re upset, and obviously (losing the final) sucks. But moving forward we’re still in the state playoffs, we know what we need to work on, and we know what we need to do to get better.
Peachtree Ridge defeated Collins Hill in the Region 6-AAAAAAA consolation match, giving the Lions the No. 3 seed from the region and making the Eagles No. 4 going into the state tournament. The first round will begin Oct. 19.