PAWLEYS ISLAND — For the sixth straight season, the Waccamaw Warriors met their usual roadblock to the Class AA state volleyball championship in the form of powerhouse Bishop England.
The twist this time came that the Warriors hosted the Bishops in the Lower State finals instead of traveling to Charleston with a berth in the state championship on the line.
The talented Bishops, who have won 12 consecutive Class AA titles, shrugged off a gym full of fired up Warrior fans and a feisty Waccamaw squad to earn another state championship berth with a 25-18, 25-13, 25-11 victory Thursday night.
“Lower State, top four in the state for [Class] AA – how exciting is that?” Waccamaw coach Jill Schoen said. “We were hoping for a home-court advantage to help us and there were a couple times we had a couple of really great runs there and I thought we were going to pull it out – to even get a game from them would be something.”
But Bishop England, behind 5-foot-11 senior Ellie James, a verbal commitment to Mercer and two-time defending Class AA Player of the Year, was simply too much for the Warriors.
“Ultimately, [Bishops coach Cindy Baggott] has got a really great program. She's got a really good team and I'm really proud of my girls we made it to this point,” Schoen said. “We were hoping to win the region, we were aiming for that and then anything past that was ... gravy.”
James finished with 14 kills, Julianne Dahlman had 14 assists and Sarah Santos nine digs for the Bishops (30-5), who face the Upper State winner – Chesnee or Andrew Jackson – for the state championship.
“Every year we see [Waccamaw] and we know it's going to be a tough match,” Baggott said, the coach for five of Bishop England's 12 straight state titles. “They're a good team, they're well coached, they play hard. Coming up here we had the challenge of the fans as well.”
Senior Melaina Moore, who Schoen said averaged about 7 or 8 kills per match, only had two for the Warriors (20-6). The Warriors also only had two aces in the match.
Schoen was left to wonder what could have been if her Warriors could only make it past the major roadblock Bishop England represents in the Lower State.
“This is the state championship as far as I'm concerned because if we made it past them I think we'd be really competitive with whoever we would have played next,” Schoen said. “[Bishop England] will go in and dominate that team [in the state championship].”