North Myrtle Beach continued its dominant volleyball season on Tuesday, cruising to a 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-16) victory over rival Myrtle Beach in the Class 4A Lower State championship game.
The Chiefs (23-5, 10-0 Region 6-4A) will play Pickens for the Class 4A state title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at White Knoll High School in Lexington.
The Chiefs’ win over the rival Seahawks extends an incredible season, which still has one goal yet to be crossed off the list – a state title.
“It’s really exciting. We’ve been working really hard this year. Beating Myrtle Beach three times this year was a challenge for us, they’re a great team,” said North Myrtle Beach senior Sydney Bellamy. “I was really excited when we found out we would get to play them again in the Lower State final. (Making it to state has) been a personal goal for me. This year, it’s just something different, something special.”
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Myrtle Beach (13-11-1, 8-2 Region 6-4A) put up a valiant effort against the juggernaut Chiefs, going point-for-point in a tight first set won 25-23 by the home team. In the second and third sets, North Myrtle Beach built some breathing room to win by 10 and nine points.
“I thought we came out and played really hard in the beginning. After you lose that first set against a team like North Myrtle at home, you can unravel pretty quickly,” said Myrtle Beach coach Larry Church. “We played pretty tight in that second set because we knew we needed to make a little push to make a difference and North Myrtle Beach executed.
“They took advantage of our mistakes and really played well in that second set. That changed the feeling of the whole match.”
In the second set, North Myrtle Beach scored in bunches, going up 5-1 and leading by 11 points during the set. The Chiefs follow the model their coach, Alex Sing, asks of his team.
“Coach told us to never let off the gas and always play to the next point and I have a short (memory) on what happened last,” said Bellamy on the team’s strategy. “If we have a good swing, that’s gone, we have to make sure we’re focusing on the next point because the last point has already been scored.”
In its undefeated region run, where the Chiefs never lost a set, Sing kept his team motivated by reminding them that the end goal was a much larger trophy.
“One game at a time, one game at a time,” he said, fighting back his emotions following the Lower State win. “We try not to overlook anybody we play and just realize that if your goal is to get to state, you have to beat everybody. That was our goal and that’s why we held together.”
All season, North Myrtle Beach had to contend with losing the Lower State final to Myrtle Beach in 2017, and the Seahawks going on to win a state championship. Matching up with their rivals again in the Lower State final was a welcomed sight for Sing.
Now, the Chiefs turn their sights to another strong volleyball program in Pickens, who played for state last season against Myrtle Beach.
“We’re a little bit familiar with Pickens, we played them last year in a tournament, and we know they’ve got a couple of big hitters,” he said. “Pound-for-pound it’s going to be who takes the punches better and dishes it out. We’re looking forward to the challenge and we’ll see on Saturday.”
For Myrtle Beach and Church, the idea of a rematch in the state final was appetizing, but his team didn’t have enough to get past North Myrtle Beach.
“I feel like we definitely reached our potential by being here in the Lower State championship,” Church said. “I thought we would be quite fortunate to get past North Myrtle, to be quite honest, I gave us a 50-50 shot because anything can happen. Ultimately, North Myrtle Beach is the more talented team and they showed it.
“… I know (Pickens) wanted us to get back, so they could get some revenge from last year, but they’re going to have to deal with the other Myrtle Beach, the North Myrtle Beach Chiefs and hopefully they can get it done against Pickens.”