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SCHSL volleyball and girls tennis titles on the line this Saturday

Columbia – The S.C. High School League will offer up state championship Saturday on November 10 as the league decides its volleyball and girls tennis state championships for 2018.

White Knoll High School will host the state volleyball finals, starting at 10 a.m. with the Class A finals.

The tennis titles will be decided at the Lexington County Tennis Complex with the AAAA and AAAAA finals beginning at 10 a.m., followed the AAA and AA matches at noon.

Here’s a preview of all the action.

Class A volleyball – Branchville vs. Governor’s School, 10 a.m.

Branchville (24-5) is in the finals for the eighth time in the last nine years, losing in last year’s finals to Lewisville after winning the crown two years ago.

Coach Ron Nester says his team survived injury and cancellations due to Hurricane Florence and fought their way to the finals once again.

“The beginning of the season was pretty smooth up until the Hurricane,” Nester said. “We were probably playing our best volleyball and it kind of set us back some. We had a layoff, had some games cancelled. The end of the season was kind of hectic, plus we had a few injuries. But we’re healthy now and playing pretty good volleyball when it counts.”

Juniors Abby Funchess and Kelsey Kinard are two of the leaders for the Yellow Jackets. Funchess is the team’s setter (339 assists) and floor leader while Kinard leads the team in kills (123) from the outside. Senior Anna Smith is one of the team’s defensive leaders with 219 digs.

The Governor’s School also dealt with distraction and adversity. The team’s coach left in midseason due to work scheduling conflicts and athletic director Hugh O’Connor took over the team. Not to forget the school is a two-year academic program and the roster varies greatly from season to season.

The team, however, rallied together for a strong finish, posting a 12-8 record.

“I really have to credit the girls for dealing with the adversity and pressing forward,” O’Connor said. “This is 100 percent a case of my team taking me to state.”

Senior libero Layne Scopano says the team bonded together to make it a season a remember.

“We have a unique program because it does take time to set up things every season,” Scopano said. “We deal with a lot of changes here every year and this was just another change. I think it speaks volumes about the heart of our players that we were able to bond together. If anything, it just strengthened our chemistry.”

Joining Scopano as a leader on this year’s team is senior setter Mikey Pennell.

Class AA volleyball – Oceanside Collegiate vs. St. Joseph’s, Noon

Oceanside Collegiate (34-9) is a three-year old school making their first appearance in the state finals. St. Joseph’s (32-13) is one of the more successful programs in the state, making their eighth consecutive appearance in the championship game with seven straight state championships.

Oceanside Collegiate is coached by Amir Khaledi in his first season at the school. The coach has a successful resume as a college and Iranian Olympic coach but has enjoyed teaching the game at the prep level.

“As a coach, it doesn’t matter what level you coach at, you want to be successful and you want to develop players,” Khaledi said. “It was a challenge putting it all together but these girls have been great. They work very hard and they love the game. It’s really been a lot of fun this year. I am very fortunate to be the head coach at Oceanside.”

Juniors Olivia Yarborough and Sophie Meredith anchor the Oceanside lineup. Both were named Class AA all-state this season. Yarborough has recorded 245 kills and 64 service aces while Meredith has 682 assists and 110 aces.

Sophomore Taylor Hills has 203 kills and sophomore Reese Vorster has 33 blocks. Senior Sierra Wolter is a defensive leader in the back with 230 digs.

St. Joseph’s has only three seniors on this year’s roster but Kyra Thompson, Lauren DeLo and Katie Culumovic have been outstanding leaders for coach Jan Carino.

“It helps to have players around you who have been in the finals and know what it takes to win a championship,” said DeLo, who is in her first championship game.

Culumovic is playing in her fifth state championship.

“I think the experience of having played in the finals five times helped me deal with pressure this year,” she said. “And we play a tough schedule during the season and that prepares us for the playoff pressure.”

DeLo leads the team with 505 kills while Thompson has 422. DeLo’s 51 blocks also leads the team and setter Culumovic has 720 assists. Junior libero Elizabeth Tamura has a team-high 531 digs.

Class AAA volleyball – Bishop England vs. Powdersville, 2:30 p.m.

Bishop England is seeking a 19th consecutive state championship and their third straight in Class AAA. That streak of consecutive titles nearly ended in last year’s finals against Powdersville with Bishop England coming from a 2-0 hole to win the title, 3-2.

Bishop England enters this year’s finals with a 20-32-2.

“The big challenge was we had only five returners to the team and only two were out on the floor a lot last year,” said coach Cindy Baggott, who is seeking her 12th title as head coach. “It was a new experience for our program with seven freshmen on the roster. We couldn’t look and wins and losses. We had to look at how we were developing and growing as a team and we managed to do that as the season went along. They rose to the challenge. It has been cool to see them develop as a team.”

Senior all-state selections Madeline White and Kelsey Stieby are the veteran leaders of this year’s team. White leads the team in kills (309) and blocks (43) while Stieby sets the table offensively with 950 assists and 367 defensive digs.

Junior Shawna Swanson leads the team in digs with 461 while senior Sydney Scott has 242.

Powdersville (25-4) has used last year’s collapse in the finals as motivation this season.

“It’s definitely motivation,” coach Brooke Passini said. “Our goal was to make it back to state. We knew Bishop England would be here. We just hoped for another chance.”

Junior Alexis Albright leads a balanced offensive attack with 267 kills, adding 267 digs. Setter Kate Hardy has 371 assists and 207 digs and senior Aspen Ridder has 208 digs.

Class AAAA volleyball – North Myrtle Beach vs. Pickens, 4:30 p.m.

North Myrtle Beach advanced to the Lower State finals last season before losing to Myrtle Beach. Pickens lost to Myrtle Beach in the state championship match a year ago.

North Myrtle Beach (23-5) avenged that loss with a win over Myrtle Beach in the Lower State finals and Pickens (29-1) returns to the finals for another shot.

Pickens has not lost a set since September, to Wando, and rolls into the finals as the top-ranked team in Class AAAA. Coach Rikki Owens says her team is focused to finish the job this year.

“They have been working hard since May, non-stop,” Owens said. “We have eight seniors so leadership is strong. We are excited to back. We are ready to have another opportunity. This team has earned their way here.”

Middle hitters Lexi Wierzbicki and Sydney Bolding lead the Blue Flames. Wierzbicki has 276 kills and 334 digs while Bolding has 238 kill. Junior setter Kaylee Gillespie has 530 assists.

North Myrtle Beach won a state title in 2012 but coach Alex Sing has built the program back over the last few years, starting with a young but talented group and progressing each year.

“We had a lot of good talent and I knew we had great potential,” Sing said. “This group has grown up a lot over the year. We’ve been getting a little closer each year. We have three seniors so the future looks good for us.

“I think the two teams are evenly-matched. We know Pickens will be a great challenge.”

Senior outside hitters Kayla Henly and Sydney Bellamy are the team leaders and both were named Class AAAA all-state.

Class AAAAA volleyball – Wando vs. Nation Ford, 7 p.m.

Wando is in the finals for a sixth straight year, seeking their first title in three years after losing to Dorman in the finals each of the last two years.

Nation Ford is a program that has been steadily building and is making its first championship appearance after surviving a rugged upper state bracket.

“This is a team that has been building confidence each year and we’re excited to have this opportunity against a great program like Wando,” Nation Ford coach Carrie Christian said. “We always play a tough schedule and we feel like that has helped us mature as a team.”

Nation Ford is 43-7 overall and beat Wando in Wando’s own tournament in late October, just before the state playoffs. Junior outside hitter Sophie Fischer is an offensive leader with 601 kills. Emily Lammers has 413 kills and Hannah Neff has 258 kills.

Setters Ally Thees (752 assists) and Grace Scott (557 assists) set the offense. Cammy McDonagh (516 digs), Lammers (372 digs) and Fischer (338 digs) are the top defenders.

Wando has been the state’s top-ranked team all season, posting a 49-3 record heading into the finals. Coach Alexis Glover, who reached 1,000 career wins during the season and is the winningest coach in state history, had to replace six seniors from last year’s team but returned a talented cast.

Senior setter Maddie Boylston, senior middle Sarah Missroon and junior outside hitter Grae Gosnell are Class AAAAA all-state selections. Boylston is headed to Virginia to play while Missroon is signing with Appalachian State.

“We had some big shoes to fill but these girls did a great job of building the chemistry,” Glover said. “We play a competitive schedule and I think that helps us so much. We had to go on the road in the playoffs and we managed those well. We showed a lot of composure in the tough playoff environments.”

Gosnell, one of the state’s top underclassmen, leads Wando with 485 kills. Missroon adds 339 kills and 132 blocks while senior Abbey Schad adds 294 kills and 63 blocks.

Boylston run the show as the setter with 1,319 assists. Junior Ali Jahn leads the club with 468 defensive digs while junior Haley Jenness has 297 digs.

Class AA girls tennis – Oceanside Collegiate vs. Christ Church, Noon

Oceanside (9-2) is making their first appearance in the state finals in their first season of eligibility. The three-year old school was ineligible for postseason appearances until this fall.

Christ Church is a powerhouse at the smaller school level. This year’s team is 16-0 and the program has won titles in eight of the last nine years, including the last two in Class AA.

Senior Day Nuckolls plays number one singles for the Cavaliers. Mary Cage Carter at number four singles and junior Brooke Hammond at five singles also are key performers.

Oceanside has been led by seniors Emma Smith and Jill Morse, who play two and three singles, respectively. Kat Lyman is the number one singles player.

“We’ve had a good year and we have good chemistry so we all really want to win for each other,” says Smith.

Class AAA girls tennis – Bishop England vs. Chapman

A battle of undefeated teams as Bishop England (21-0) battles Chapman (15-0). Bishop England has won seven consecutive titles, the last two coming in Class AAA. Chapman is playing in the finals for the first time.

Bishop England is led by senior Eleanor Campbell at number one singles and sophomore Lily Wood at number two singles.

“We make sure we have good, challenging practices to prepare us for every match,” said coach Kristin Arnold, who won four titles as a player, two as boys coach and seven as girls coach. “Every day in practice, it’s about us a team. I sell it as a team sport.”

Chapman did not lose a team point during the regular season and has lost only three all year. Freshman Elizabeth Williams plays number one singles. Junior Molly Foxworth, at three singles, is the oldest player in the lineup. The singles ladder also has a freshman at two, an eighth-grader at four and a seventh-grader at five singles.

“This team has grown up together through the ranks and have done a great job of competing,” second-year coach Caleb Crittendon said.

Class AAAA girls tennis – A.C. Flora vs. Hilton Head

A.C. Flora coach Amy Martin has her program back in the finals for the fourth time, seeking her first state championship. Hilton Head knocked off Hartsville in a big Lower State final to reach the championship. A.C. Flora beat Hilton Head in the Lower State finals a year ago but moved to the Upper State bracket this fall.

A.C. Flora is 18-0 this season with a veteran roster that includes nine seniors. Senior Raquel Acco is 14-2 this season. Every other singles player is undefeated. Senior Megan Pleasant plays two singles and senior Elise Sandlin plays three. Eighth-grader Frances Smith is at four and senior Breland Gann plays five singles.

“It’s going to be bittersweet seeing this group of seniors move on,” Martin said. “This group has been with me for a long time. I hope they can go out on top.”

Class AAAAA girls tennis – Wando vs. Spartanburg

Wando (15-2) takes on Spartanburg (13-2) in battle of veteran teams. While both programs have a strong history of contending, it has been a while since either took home the top prize. Spartanburg last won in 1993 with four runner-up finishes since. Spartanburg reached the finals a year ago, losing to River Bluff.

Wando won six straight titles a decade ago, the last coming in 2009. Wando lost to River Bluff in the Lower State finals last season and avenged that loss in this year’s Lower State finals.

Wando is led by number one singles performer Kelsey Sinclaire, a sophomore.

“Our girls have worked very hard for this opportunity,” says Wando coach Megan Hinton. “We have great senior leadership and we have had a lot of tough matches to fight through.”

Senior Maggie Cubitt anchors the top spot for Spartanburg.

“Last year we had an opportunity and we fell short,” Cubitt said. “This year, with a lot of seniors, we want to get over the hump and win for each other.”


© 2017 High School Sports Report

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