Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach had won three hard-fought matches against region archrival Cathedral Academy this season.
The fourth proved to be the most grueling – and most fulfilling.
The Saints volleyball team defeated the Generals in five games (25-19, 25-17, 23-25, 15-25, 16-14) Monday night at Wilson Hall in Sumter to narrowly win the SCISA Class A championship.
It was the third time this season the Saints and Generals – based in Charleston – played a five-game match. This one ended when Natalia Antonucci’s kill landed off a Cathedral Academy player just inbounds to allow Christian Academy to avenge a four-game loss to the Generals in last year’s title match.
“It was immediate,” sophomore libero Caroline Gore said of the players’ reaction to winning. “We all started screaming and hugging each other. We did it. We were here last year and got so close. We were just so excited.”
After winning the first two games handily, the Saints lost a close third game. In the fourth, Gore said, the momentum began to shift into the Generals’ favor.
“We had so much energy in the third set; it was so close. We served and they served. It was 25-23 and all points were long rallies,” she said. “In the fourth set we lost it; our energy went down and we weren’t talking to each other.
“After that, we pulled it together and said, ‘it’s our game.’ ”
In the fifth game, Christian Academy did just enough to earn a state title in front of what coach Alex Sing described as a large contingent of traveling fans.
“You just heard the whole gym erupt,” he said of the moment the Saints clinched the match. “All the Saints fans were rushing onto the floor giving congratulations to the girls.”
Junior setter Claudia Markley said she hopes it’s just the beginning for a squad that had no seniors. While Sing was quick to caution over looking too far ahead, he was pleased that his team reached the goal it set out for after losing in last year’s state title match.
“This is pretty much what we prepared for when the season started,” he said. “We were hoping to give ourselves a chance to be in the finals. It was just a crazy match. Both teams left it all on the court.”
Antonucci finished with 21 kills and four aces, Rebekah Bowers added 19 kills, Gore had 27 digs and Markley had 45 assists.
And on Monday, the Saints needed every bit of it.
“We really had to dig deep within ourselves and rely on the team and the fans,” Markley said. “In the fifth game we were just on top of it. Everything fell right into place for us.”
Contact DAVID WETZEL at 626-0295.