Photo: Lake Cormorant players lift the state championship trophy high after Thursday’s Class 6A victory over Hancock. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Two different classes….two state titles. That describes the Lake Cormorant Lady Gator volleyball team after Thursday’s 3-0 state championship victory over Hancock at the Gillom Center on the Ole Miss campus. Set scores in the contest were 25-18, 25-19, and 25-22.
It’s the sixth state crown for the Lady Gators in nine title game appearances, and after winning the 5A championship in four sets last October, Lake Cormorant returns a Gold Ball back to the Swamp in its first appearance as a 6A school.
SET ONE: LAKE CORMORANT 25, HANCOCK 18
The Lady Gators opened strong, taking six of the first seven points for a 6-1 lead. Sofia Gonzalez made three kills, Kiersten McGarrity served an ace, and Payton Davis recorded a kill for the quick jumpstart in the set. After two Hancock points, Gonzalez slammed another kill for a 7-3 Lake Cormorant lead. A Hancock drop shot later cut the deficit to 12-10 but a Gonzalez kill and a Hancock illegal hit grew the margin to 15-11 Lady Gators. Zamoria Nelson scored off a block for a 20-15 advantage, another Gonzalez point with a block made the score 22-16 until the final set result.
SET TWO: LAKE CORMORANT 25, HANCOCK 19
Again, Lake Cormorant started strong to a 3-0 lead but Hancock was able to tie the set at 5-5 and actually took a 7-5 lead, its first of the match. A sideout tied the set back up at 8-8 and Lake Cormorant retook the lead to 10-8 on a McGarrity kill. A Hancock point tied the set again at 10-10, but from there the Lady Gators took control. Eight of the next nine points fashioned an 18-11 lead. Nelson scored off a block, Gonzalez scored five straight kills and added a point off a block in the string. Ariana Woods added an ace as the Lady Gators took the second set.
SET THREE: LAKE CORMORANT 25, HANCOCK 22
As in the second set, the Lady Gators took the early lead but Hancock would rally for a 5-5 tie. From there, the Lady Hawks took control of the set and built a 16-12 lead and Lake Cormorant called a timeout.
“I told them, look, we’re up 2-0 and they’re going to fight really hard right now, so we have to fight harder,” Morgan said. “We have to fight for every single point and just remember, ‘you want it, you want it, go get it.”
From there, the Lady Gators got the ball to Gonzalez as much as possible. A Gonzalez kill and Woods’ point off a block got the Lady Gators within 17-15. A Gonzalez ace eventually tied the set at 20-20. A point off a block gave Lake Cormorant a 21-20 lead, a net violation made it 23-21 and Lady Gators won the title on this point.
“They knew they wanted it from the get go, they got it and they worked hard for it,” Morgan said. “We wanted to make sure we ran our offense with our speed and we thought we’d be very successful.”
Morgan also credited her team’s defensive play.
“We were picking up balls left and right,” Morgan said. “You saw Sofia Gonzalez putting down balls but our setter, Dallas White, worked so hard. She was setting balls on her knees today.”
Gonzalez, just a sophomore, added Most Valuable Player honors to her Miss Volleyball award when Thursday’s contest ended.
“She’s already great but she’s always trying to figure out what she could have done better,” Morgan said. “She’s such a great leader out there and she’s somebody that we can depend on.”