One of the greatest moments I’ve had in a 15-year career covering sports from the NFL to professional tennis to the SEC to high school sports in three states was the 2001 state volleyball championships held at White Knoll High School.
Battling that day were Summerville and Dorman in the 4A finals, a matchup of two volleyball titans. Dorman appeared in a staggering 12 of 15 state championship finals from 1990-2005, winning 10 times. Summerville was no less a juggernaut, having played in the state finals eight times over that stretch and in 2001 was in the midst of a five-year finals run, losing twice to Irmo (1998-99) then to Dorman in 2000 to make it three consecutive losses in the championship game when the two foes met once again at White Knoll on Nov. 3, 2001 to determine a champion.
It was simply one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen in any sport, any level.
Dorman had a skyscraper-laden front line led by 6-foot-3 Rachel VanMeter, who would go on to set records at the University of Illinois, including the career attack record and once had 39 kills in a single game to set an arena record.
Summerville’s tallest player, on the other hand, was 5-10 Elizabeth Beckham who, despite giving up a good five inches to Dorman’s front line, was a dynamo in every sense, playing a passionate yet clinical game and willing her team to greatness to stretch the defending champions to the limit with precise serves and breathtaking kills. At the end of the match Dorman hoisted the trophy while Beckham, by far her team’s best player and emotional leader, sobbed uncontrollably even as she got a standing ovation by the entire crowd during the medal ceremony.
The match was superb, representing everything that’s great about high school sports . Beckham, who went on to star at Clemson, had 33 kills to VanMeter’s 32, and a year later it was she who hoisted the trophy for the Green Wave over a vanquished Dorman, which hadn’t lost all year until then.
Who will hoist this year’s trophy? Will it be a Midlands team?
Several teams are legitimate contenders.
In Class 4A, Lugoff-Elgin returns a strong team that was a No. 1 seed going into last year’s Upper State playoffs before losing in the second round, as did No. 2-seed Blythewood. No. 4-seed Spring Valley fell in the first round.
In the Lower State playoffs, No. 2 seeds Lexington and White Knoll also made the second round of the playoffs, while No. 3 seed Irmo fell in the first round.
In Class 3A, both Chapin (Upper State) and Irmo (Lower State) made the state semifinals, While Camden and Gilbert both fell in the second round. Westwood, in its first year of varsity competition, made the playoffs but fell in the first round.
In Class 2A, North Central made the Upper State quarterfinals, while Batesburg-Leesville, Columbia and Pelion all fell in the first round of the Upper State playoffs.
In Class A, Branchville, made the state finals for the fourth consecutive year, while East Clarendon fell in the quarterfinals.
Which team has the best chance to win a state title this year? The last Midlands champions were Irmo (4A, 1999), Brookland-Cayce (3A, 2003) and Chapin (1999), so we’re on a decade-long drought now. WLTX has a poll up now on our high school page with the 10 teams most-likely to win state – vote now, and I’ll come out and feature the winning school this week as we get set for the official start of the volleyball season a week from today (Monday, Aug. 25)!
-Ron Aiken, WLTX High School Sports Champion