With last year’s loss in the state final providing focus, Pickens beat North Myrtle Beach 3-0 to win the Class AAA volleyball title Saturday at White Knoll High School.
The Blue Flame earned the program’s 14th state championship and first since 2008.
“It’s wonderful,” said Pickens coach Jennifer Gravely, who won her fifth state title. “I thought we played well today. We wanted to put our best foot forward.”
Gravely said the Blue Flame (26-4) spent time in practice focusing on defense and play at the net.
“We were prepared,” she said. “I wanted to see defense, and that includes blocking. We had 18 blocks, and that’s 18 points.”
“We worked really hard these past two days of practice because we knew the team we’d be facing was going to be good,” senior Michaela Leslie said. “We came out strong today.”
The Blue Flame built a 14-6 lead in the first set after a 7-0 run. They used an 11-2 run to close out the 25-12 win.
Game two was pivotal. Pickens won the first game last year before North Myrtle Beach took control in the second and won.
This year, Pickens fell behind 8-2 and 16-11. Brianna O’Shields’ kill tied the score 16-16, part of a 9-0 stretch that put Pickens ahead 20-16.
The Chiefs (21-3) tied the score at 23, but Leslie made back-to-back kills for the 25-23 win.
“The second game has always been our hardest game,” Gravely said. “We work on this at practice. I reminded them, ‘You do this in practice.’ They just dug deep, and they had to work for it.”
Pickens showed solid net play to pull away in game three and win 25-15.
The experience of 2012 helped the Blue Flame this time.
“I remember watching (North Myrtle Beach) win, and we all took that as fuel to beat them,” O’Shields said.
Senior Brooke Stewart said, “We knew what we were going to do. We were much more focused.”