Soon after their amazing feat, Hillcrest coach Lynn Avant had a simple message to her team.
“You guys stayed strong,” she said. “You didn’t fold. I’m so proud of you.”
Off balance and at the breaking point after Wando won the first two games of the Class AAAA volleyball final at White Knoll High School, the Rams won three straight elimination games to capture their third straight state title.
The score told the story: 13-25, 21-25, 25-14, 25-16, 15-8.
“That’s the first time that’s ever happened, and I hope it’s the last,” said Avant, who won her fifth state title.
“After the first two sets, I thought we were toast,” she said. “They took it to us, and we’re lucky to get out.”
Wando controlled the net early, particularly through junior Elisa Aldrich, who made the game’s first four points on blocks. Hillcrest suffered uncommon errors in those first two games, but settled down for the final three.
“We just said, ‘Play as a family,’ ” senior Maddie Palmer said. “We needed to communicate just like a family does. We definitely picked up our game.”
Trailing 3-2 in game three, Palmer and Lauren Adkins made three kills each to spur an 8-0 run and a nine-point win that began turning the match around.
Hillcrest again fell behind Wando (47-6) in game four, but Adkins, Palmer, Catherine Cogdill and Callie Yeargin continued making plays at the net.
“They really stepped up,” Avant said. “Cogdill made two key blocks. Adkins, she brought it. They just all played their hearts out tonight.”
The Warriors led early in the fifth game, but a Palmer kill and a point by Adkins drew the Rams even at six. Cogdill’s block then put Hillcrest ahead for good.
Adkins and Cogdill combined for three blocks, and Palmer delivered two aces as the Rams scored 10 consecutive points. Cogdill finished the comeback win with a kill.
“I have total confidence in my team, and I knew we were going to come out with a victory,” said senior Erin Errington.
Palmer led Hillcrest with 17 kills, and Adkins had 16. Allison Whitten had 36 digs and Palmer 23. Victoria Dierickx made 26 assists followed by Kaylon Amick with 23.