The 2018 season is on the horizon and across the state, teams will face a different landscape after changes were voted on over the off season. In April, the GHSA regionalized classifications AAAA-AAAAAAA while classifications A-AAA will continue to utilize the Area configuration. The GHSA allows sports to be regionalized if at least 50% of the schools in the region participate in said sport.
There are too few Class A-Public volleyball teams to have an effective Class A-Public/Private split, so the GHSA decided to combine AA and A into AA/A but still award separate public and private champions. Basically, no private schools will remain in Class AA competition and now Class A-Public schools will battle it out with AA Public schools instead of Class A-Private schools.
The new AA/A-Public classification consists of eight areas with 57 total schools competing which allows for fresh competition through the playoffs and into the championship brackets.
In the state’s highest classification, the top-ranked Walton Lady Raiders are in the hunt for their 13th girls volleyball title and fourth-consecutive state title. Since 2010, Walton has won seven titles, only missing in 2014 when North Cobb took the crown. Walton standout Gabby Gonzales earned 2017-18 Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year honors following her junior season last year. The 6-foot-4 outside hitter led the Lady Raiders to a 40-1 record, AAAAAAA championship and a No. 1 national ranking while compiling 558 kills, 222 digs, 37 blocks and 31 service aces.
Etowah, which fell to Walton 3-0 in the championship bracket last season, follows close behind in the debut rankings. The Lady Eagles had not dropped a set in the championship bracket before falling to Walton in the final match. Third-ranked Mill Creek fell to Walton in the semifinals of the championship bracket last season. Newnan, ranked fourth, had it’s season cut short with a 3-0 loss to runner-up Etowah in last year’s semis.
Top-ranked Harrison capped off it’s 2017-18 season with a 3-0 victory over No. 2 Alpharetta in the AAAAAA championship following the All-Cobb semifinal of Harrison vs. Pope and Johns Creek vs. Alpharetta. The Lady Hoyas dropped just one set, to Pope in the semis, through the championship bracket. Harrison’s 45-10 finish was highlighted by a flawless 10-0 run through its region. The victory marked the second-consecutive title and third overall after winning the Class AAAAA (state’s highest class at the time) in 2006. Alpharetta, last year’s runner-up, takes the No. 2 spot entering the 2018 season. The Lady Raiders dropped eight matches last year but only six matches were to teams in Georgia, including the championship, and one match was to seemingly unbeatable Walton.
Defending-champion McIntosh takes the No. 1 spot in Class AAAAA entering the 2018 season. The Lady Chiefs have won three titles, but last year’s was the first since 2013 with the first coming in 2007. In the championship match, after not dropping a set through four matches, McIntosh was taken to the final set by No. 2 Buford before it’s 3-2 victory.
Entering the season, top-ranked Marist is still savoring it’s 3-0 sweep of Blessed Trinity in the championship match as it captured it’s eighth volleyball title (Open Event – 1994, 1997; Class AAA – 1998-99; Class AAAA – 2000, 2006, 2014, 2017). The Lady War Eagles did not drop a set through the playoff and championship brackets. Second-ranked Blessed Trinity enters this year in the hunt for its sixth volleyball title after being denied a four-peat last year. The Lady Titans won in Class AAA in 2012, 2014, 2015 and Class AAAA in 2016.
Pace Academy capped off 2017-18 with a 3-2 shootout victory over Area rival Westminster. It marked the first-ever volleyball title for the Lady Knights. Second-ranked Westminster was vying for its ninth. Pace’s roster last season featured just two seniors which could mean another deep run into the playoffs for the young Knights.
The newly formed Class AA/A-Public allows the smaller A-Public class to be absorbed by the Class AA teams which allows for evenly matched teams to face off toward the end of the season versus Class A-Public being easily handled by the Private schools. The new classification is led by defending Class AA champion Coosa following its 3-0 victory over St. Vincent’s in the Class AA championship match last season. The win marked the first-ever title for the Lady Eagles. Runner-up St. Vincent’s will now compete in Class A-Private. Armuchee, which fell to Coosa in the semifinals last year, holds the No. 2 ranking entering the season.
Defending-champion Calvary Day holds the No. 1 ranking entering the season following its near flawless run through the playoff and championship brackets last year. The victory marked the third-consecutive state championship for Calvary. No. 2 Mount Paran was the runner-up in last year’s Class A championship bracket and takes the No. 2 ranking entering the season. St. Vincent’s, the Class AA runner-up, is third following its loss to Coosa in the AA championship match.
3. Mill Creek
5. South Forsyth
7. North Forsyth
8. East Coweta
10. Kennesaw Mountain
4. Johns Creek
7. Effingham County
8. Glynn Academy
4. Starr’s Mill
8. Harris County
2. Blessed Trinity
3. Woodward Academy
4. St. Pius X
7. Richmond Academy
10. North Oconee
1. Pace Academy
3. Greater Atlanta Christian
5. North Hall
7. Jackson County
8. Savannah Arts
9. East Hall
5. Rabun County
7. Gordon Lee
1. Calvary Day
2. Mount Paran Christian
3. St. Vincent’s
5. Savannah Country Day
6. Hebron Christian
7. St. Francis
8. Mount de Sales
10. Landmark Christian
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