The story of the 2001 Area 3-AAAA volleyball season can be summed up in one word: Dominance.
Columbia County high schools Greenbrier and Lakeside entered the year with proven programs, while Area 3 prep squads from Richmond County were embarking on their maiden volleyball voyages.
Both Greenbrier and Lakeside blew past the upstarts during the regular season. Then, in the Area 3-AAAA tournament, the Lady Wolfpack and Lady Panthers each charted a course to the finals Tuesday at the Brierpatch.
Greenbrier outlasted Lakeside 3-2 in a best-of-five title match that captivated the capacity crowd. The Lady Pack staved off a furious Lakeside rally to win with scores of 15-5, 9-15, 15-2, 14-16, 15-6.
''I knew it was going to be this way, because every time we played Lakeside they kept creeping closer and closer," Greenbrier coach Debbie Born said. ''The best two teams were here, no doubt about it. We knew they would give us a battle."
Although the best teams battled for the trophy, Greenbrier had the edge, and not just because of home-court advantage. Lakeside had lost to Greenbrier in six previous matches this season, and the defending Area 3 champion Lady Pack surged to a 13-0 lead in Game One before capturing the opener 15-5.
''The first game we got psyched out because we'd lost every match we'd played against them. We didn't want to mess up and we became tentative," Lakeside senior Lauren Peters said. ''In the second game we took a deep breath, started hitting and getting our passes on. That made the difference."
Lakeside evened the match in Game Two, but Greenbrier countered with a rout in Game Three behind powerful net play from Lindsey Sutherland, Laura Schmidt and Jennifer Wells. Lady Pack seniors Anna Beth Barton and Becky Martin set up several points, while Melissa Fleming added precise serves and pinpoint drops.
Greenbrier was poised to take the title in four games. The Lady Pack led 9-7 when Wells blocked a shot to force a side-out. Schmidt rotated to serve and reeled off four aces to increase the margin to 13-7.
After an ace by Wells made it 14-8, Sutherland whiffed a spike opportunity, and Lakeside took advantage with an incredible run.
The Lady Panthers, sparked by Peters' serves, Kelly Newman's kills and all-around hustle by Jenna and Lauren Haynes, managed a 16-14 victory to force a winner-take-all fifth game.
''I really thought the momentum had swung our way," Peters said. ''The whole team was playing well, everybody was diving around the floor and getting to balls we normally wouldn't have gotten."
But Greenbrier gathered its composure, took a 3-0 lead in the deciding game and never trailed again. Sutherland seized control of the court during the clincher to put an exclamation point on her Area 3-AAAA Player of the Year season.
''A lot of other players received votes for Player of the Year, but Lindsey deserves it. She's the hardest hitter in the county - in the whole area," said Born, who was named Area 3 Coach of the Year.
In addition to defending the Area 3 crown, the Lady Pack improved their record to 32-6, which set a school record for wins by a Greenbrier athletic team.
''We knew we had the ability," Sutherland said. ''We bonded, and team unity carried us this far."
Greenbrier and Lakeside (24-13) each earned berths in the Class AAAA state tournament, which began Saturday at Woodward Academy. The state semifinals will be played Oct. 20 at Marist in Atlanta.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.