North Myrtle Beach reached the mountaintop on Saturday, defeating a strong Pickens squad 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-19) to claim the Class 4A volleyball state championship at White Knoll High School.
The Chiefs (24-5) dropped the first set on the day, and then ran off three straight wins to dispatch the Blue Flame (29-2). North Myrtle Beach coach Alex Sing, overcome with emotion after letting his team’s accomplishment sink in, was thrilled for his players, staff and community.
“This is such a major accomplishment for North Myrtle Beach,” he said. “I just can’t say enough how great these players were throughout this run. This match today showed you everything you need to know about them, they dug deep and really found a way to get it done. I’m so proud of them.”
In a back-and-forth first set, Pickens came out energized, looking for redemption from last year’s loss in the state championship to Myrtle Beach. The Blue Flame utilized their size and physicality inside, consistently teeing up seniors Sydney Bolding and Lexi Wierzbicki, who skied to hit down on the North Myrtle Beach defense. Pickens built a six-point advantage in the first and held off North Myrtle Beach to take the set.
For the next three sets, the Chiefs took control.
“Nobody had to say anything, we knew what we needed to do, we just had to execute,” said North Myrtle Beach senior Sydney Bellamy. “Pickens is a great team and we knew that it would take our best to beat them. After the first set, we settled in and played the way we know how, played North Myrtle Beach volleyball and we were able to win. I’m so happy to be able to hold up this trophy.”
As the captain of the Chiefs team, Bellamy felt her example would be bigger than any words. She went toe-to-toe with the Pickens front line, finishing kills over the larger Blue Flame players and blocking her fair share of attacks. She called out each of her teammates following the victory.
“We wouldn’t have been in this position without each and every player on this team,” she said. “That’s what makes this team special, everyone is a piece of the puzzle and we feed off each other.”
In the final set, North Myrtle Beach fell behind 16-13, and then fought to tie the contest at 18 all. Pickens would only score one point for the rest of the match.
“This was such a battle, Pickens gave it everything they had and we were just able to make a few plays to win it,” Sing said. “This team is young, but they’ve been through so much. From the time they missed with the hurricane to a tough playoff run – they were battle tested. Coming into an environment like this against a great opponent, I knew they wouldn’t be intimidated.”
Now, as the Chiefs celebrate this state title, Sing has already thought about what comes next, with 10 juniors and two sophomores coming back next season, they might be primed for another state run.
“As long as they work hard in the offseason and, for those playing club, get better and keep working, why can’t we do it again?” he said.
For the Chiefs, next year started around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.