Making its second consecutive appearance in the state playoffs as a No. 1 seed, the Carrollton High School volleyball team enjoyed a much smoother ride to the Area 7-AAAAA crown this go-around.
After climbing out of the loser's bracket last year to a draining run to the top, the Lady Trojans positioned themselves much more favorably where they were able to knock off tourney host Rome twice to land the No. 1 spot.
For their efforts, Carrollton will host fourth-seeded North Springs today in a 1:30 p.m. matchup to open the 32-team state playoff bracket in Class AAAAA.
"We had the road that we wanted to have this year. It was our goal to win region this year, and we didn't have to battle out of that loser's bracket back-to-back-to-back," Carrollton head coach Kasey Austin said. "On the flipside, it was like, 'OK, we need to be up, we don't need to be sitting.' So we focused on watching our opponents, but also keeping our bodies up moving and warm so we were ready for the championship round."
The Lady Trojans were more than ready in dispatching of the host Lady Wolves, and now they turn their sights on today's first-round matchup against fourth-seeded North Springs in a 1:30 p.m. best-of-three bout on Criswell Court.
As the No. 1 seed, Carrollton will actually host a pair of first-round matches in a new format under the GHSA, as No. 2 Loganville will match up with No. 3 Clarkston in the first playoff meeting of the day with a morning start.
The Lady Trojans will be able to get a little scouting report on the potential second-round showdown, but as of now all the focus is on North Springs.
"I know they came out of the Riverwood, Grady, Decatur region. We saw Riverwood at one of our elite eight play-dates that we went on. They're really strong and obviously the one seed. So we're anticipating some competition and we feel like if we play our best, we should beat any team," Austin said.
Even though the Lady Trojans don't have a huge senior class in Macie Monsour and Kelsie Thomas, they do return a quality group that experienced the elite eight last year.
"We only have 10 on the roster. We pulled up two from JV, so now we have 12. So that's six girls that have been there and kind of seen that fast-action play. But we're really young," Austin said. "I have two seniors, two juniors and the other six are sophomores and freshmen. We're a really young team, but they've made big strides so far."
With a full week off leading into state, Austin believes her squad is ready to make another run, and it all kicks off today.
"We've had a lot of prep time, which has been different from the past. We've definitely been using it to our advantage, trying to study for our opponent and really prepare for what we need to do. We're just focusing on our opponent right now," Austin said. "Our season hinges on this game and every game going forward. We're just trying to do our best to mentally and physically prepare for North Springs."