Even before the 2006 Georgia Independent Schools Association state volleyball playoffs began, the Augusta Prep Lady Cavaliers knew what to expect. In the five-year existence of the GISA state tournament, Augusta Prep has been a contender every year.
"We've been second place, third place, third place and third place," Augusta Prep coach Rich Bland said. "This one, this was satisfying and a big relief at the same time."
Bland's Lady Cavaliers won the 2006 GISA Class AAA state championship Saturday in their home gym with an undefeated trip through the state tournament.
On Friday's opening round play, Augusta Prep took advantage of a first-round bye, then eliminated Atlanta Girls in the second round.
The win put the Lady Cavaliers in the state semifinals Saturday when they defeated George Walton Academy 3-0. In the state championship match, Augusta Prep defeated Pinecrest Academy 3-1 to claim the first volleyball state title in school history.
After four straight years of final four appearances without a state championship to show for it, Bland said finally getting the top prize was a team effort.
"I think one of the biggest differences is the leadership from the girls on and off the court," Bland said. "The leadership and, quite frankly, we were deeper that past years."
Augusta Prep's Laura Kopald tallied 19 kills, two aces and five digs in the four-game final match, while Mary Beth Horton contributed with 27 assists and four aces. Kelley Toney and Nicole Abbott also turned in strong performances with seven and six kills, respectively.
"That's where we had the advantage against Pinecrest. They had one girl who was just spectacular, but when she was in the back row their offense dropped off," Bland said. "We didn't have that. It was a total team effort. Our two blockers especially, Laura and Kelley, had a huge tournament."
The Lady Cavaliers finished the season with a 19-3 record.
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