MOUNT PLEASANT — Bluffton coach Al Stern said it was his team’s best effort of the year. Wando coach Alexis Glover conceded her team didn’t bring its A-Game and relied on confidence.
Confidence and experience were the difference as Wando defeated Bluffton 17-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-22 Tuesday night in a Class AAAA Lower State semifinal.
The Warriors returned a nucleus that reached last year’s Lower State championship while the Bobcats had a team that featured four freshmen. The experience won out.
“Our game plan was to get a little momentum. We haven’t lost a first set in a long time,” Glover said. “They threw us off our game plan a little bit. We recovered and got lucky to get out of here with a win.”
Wando hosts Aiken at 6 p.m. Thursday with a berth in the Class AAAA state championship on the line. Aiken advanced with a 25-17, 25-16, 25-12 victory over South Aiken.
Bluffton, the Region 8-AAAA champ, finished with a 36-14-2 record, including 7-2 on the road. The Bobcats’ seven-game winning streak came to and end, but Stern is encouraged by his team’s future.
“The girls were really pumped up,” he said. “They came out ready to play. Wando is the No. 3 team in the state and we were No. 11. So, we played well. I’ve never seen them play better.”
Madison Cooler, Annie Franklin, Lanitra Ferguson and Shadaisha Altacho are the freshmen on the roster.
“We started three of them, and we’re the only team in the state at this level with three freshmen,” Stern said. “We have some younger players coming up in the program and the freshmen had years like no other freshmen.”
Glover, the all-time winningest volleyball coach in state history, has the Warriors in striking distance of another appearance in the state championship, which will be contested at 6 p.m. Saturday at White Knoll High School.
Glover began her coaching career at Spartanburg in 1981 and returned to the Lowcountry to coach Wando in 1985. She has led the Warriors to five state finals and one state championship in 1993.
Last year, the Warriors dropped a heartbreaking five-set decision to Aiken on the road. Thursday, the Warriors will be at home.
“We haven’t been at home for the Lower State (championship) in a long time,” Glover said. “We’re hoping to have a big crowd that will help us with momentum.”
Wando improved to 47-5 on the season. Britney Vallez had 12 kills and Elisa Aldrich tallied 10 and Daley Gosnell chipped in with seven.
Aldrich also had five blocks while Natalie Tucker handed out 30 assists.