CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team won 10 national titles in 12 years under coach John Wooden. The Boston Celtics won eight consecutive NBA championships from 1959 to 1966. The Montreal Canadians lifted the Stanley Cup eight times between 1965 and 1979. North Carolina women’s soccer won 22 national championships in a 33-year span.
That was the kind of opponent Alpharetta volleyball faced Nov. 7 in the Class 7A volleyball state championship. While Walton volleyball may not have the same name recognition as those other teams, the program is certainly a dynasty that rivals the best.
Between 1998 and 2019, the Raiders captured 14 state championships, including nine of the last 10 in the state’s highest classification.
But streaks will end, and dominance can be overcome. And that’s was on display Saturday when Alpharetta, a powerhouse in their own right, downed Walton for the Class 7A state championship. Alpharetta dropped the first set but bounced back to win the next three for the title (17-25, 25-23, 25-22, 26-24).
In the battle of the Raiders vs. the Raiders, Alpharetta never appeared intimidated and stood toe-to-toe with their Cobb County foes.
Walton ran away late in the first set, but Alpharetta got a vital win the second to knot the match. Walton’s set loss was just its second all season to an in-state opponent.
Alpharetta came out swinging in the third set and Walton looked out of rhythm early. Alpharetta quickly jumped out to an 11-2 lead. Walton eventually settled down and began chipping away slowly at the gap. Alpharetta called a timeout leading 20-15, but Walton came out of the break and scored the next five points to tie the set.
Tied 22-22, the Raiders took the next three points to take the set win. Walton mishandled a ball and had a serve go out of play before freshman Logan Wiley put down a hard kill for the exclamation point on Alpharetta’s win.
Walton maintained a scoring advantage through the first half of the fourth set, but Alpharetta began to chip away. Alpharetta trailed by three when a kill from standout outside hitter Evoni Williams began the gradual comeback.
A net violation against Walton put the score at 20-20 for the second straight set, but Walton won four of the next six points to reach set point, 24-22.
With their backs against the wall, Alpharetta responded with two straight kills from Lemons to push the set into extra points. Lemons earned her third straight kill to set up match point.
With the stands at a fever pitch, a long volley ended with an Alpharetta block, the final volleyball play before a dogpile ensued.
Alpharetta’s win was not only exhilarating, it assuredly a relief after the program had come so close to reaching championship status over the last few years. The Raiders were knocked out of the 6A semifinals last year and lost to Harrison in the 2018 and 2017 state finals.
Alpharetta compiled a 21-4 overall record this season.