Bishop England sets national record with 23rd state championship
LEXINGTON — The final volleyball match of the year never gets boring for Mary Harriet Moore or her Bishop England teammates.
“There’s always a lot of pressure,” Moore said after her team’s Class AA state championship showdown against upper state champion Chesnee on Saturday at the White Knoll High School gym.
“Every year it’s a different team. It stays exciting.”
Against the Eagles, “We knew we were going to come in to a fight,” Moore said.
With that knowledge, Moore and the Bishops dismissed Chesnee in three sets to claim its 13th straight state championship and a national record-setting 23 state titles in the history of the program.
“It is incredible, it’s almost like it’s not real,” said sixth year head coach Cindy Baggott. “I have to give a lot of credit to my predecessors, Cathy Blackman and Amelia Dawley. They laid the groundwork for the program and I was fortunate enough to keep the tradition going. And of course I have to give a lot of credit to the girls. They work very hard.”
Even though faces change on the court and coaches come and go, Baggott said the program maintains a winning consistency with conditioning, discipline, and a lot of work.
“We take a little time off after each season, but soon afterward, we’re in the weight room,” Baggott said. “We’ve really stepped up our conditioning program. A lot of them play club ball too. We take advantage of every chance that we’re allowed to practice. It’s not an August-to-November season. It’s pretty much a nine-month commitment.”
The Bishops didn’t know much about Chesnee, which made the state championship match for the first time, but Baggott said they looked at their game results and knew the Eagles earned their spot.
The Bishops, coming off a tough win over Waccamaw on Thursday, were on top of their game.
“Our passing was a little bit better,” Baggott said about her team. “When you’re better at passing you’re better at everything else. That gave us the chance to give the ball to our hitters.”
BE led throughout the first set and won it 25-20.
The Eagles gave the Bishops fits early in the second set. With Bishop England clinging to a 9-7 lead, Kathryn Cooper served up an 8-point run with James, Caitlin Beard and Maddie Conway at the net. Ellie James made four kills during that run, which gave Bishop England a 17-7 advantage en route to a 25-12 win.
“Ellie’s a four-year starter and made an immediate impact on the team,” Baggott said. “She’s grown tremendously as a player and as a leader as she’s matured. I told my setters to just keep feeding her.”
Chesnee fought to an 8-5 lead in the third set, but with James, Moore and Catherine McAlister cleaning up at the net, the Bishops turned it around and clinched the title with a 25-19 win.
James led the team with 20 kills. Julianne Dahlman contributed 20 assists and Sawyer Swanson made 15 digs.
“We came to win,” James said. “I wanted to win more than anything and I know my teammates wanted to win more than anything. We were going to do whatever it took.”