MOUNT PLEASANT — Driven by revenge and fueled by a frenzied student-body section in its Chop House, Wando won the Class AAAA Lower State championship Thursday night.
The Warriors did it the hard way against the Aiken Hornets. Wando took the first two sets of the best-of-five match, 25-15, 25-17, and then had to hold its breath. Aiken rallied to take the next two sets, 25-23, 25-22 to force the final match. The Warriors won 15-9, and the celebration was on.
“I am so proud of the girls,” Wando coach Alexis Glover said. “We’ll get some hardware Saturday, but what I really want is a win.”
The Warriors, who improved to 46-5 on the season, will play Hillcrest at 6 p.m. Saturday at White Knoll High School. It will be the sixth time in 18 years the Warriors have reached the state championship under Glover, the all-time winningest volleyball coach in state history. The Warriors’ one state title came in 1993.
Aiken coach Malynda Young was pleased with her team’s effort.
“They wanted to fight, and they fought to the end,” Young said. “It was hard to get things to fall our way. Wando played a good game. When you hit well and don’t make mistakes, you are going to score some points.”
The victory eased a heartbreak and a year’s worth of “what-ifs.”
Last year, the Hornets won over Wando at home, winning the fifth set of the match 15-13 to end the Warriors’ season.
“We talked about it all week,” Glover said. “We wanted to avenge that heartbreaker. We jumped to the 2-0 lead, but we knew Aiken wouldn’t give up. We knew they would fight inch-by-inch in that third game. We knew they would fight inch-by-inch in the fourth game, and they did. We knew we needed to get off to a fast start in the fifth set, and we did. We’re just excited to get the win.”
The Warriors had a balanced attack. Natalie Tucker had 26 assists, while Elisa Aldridge collected 12 kills and seven blocks. Samantha DeJong chipped in with 11 kills and three blocks.
“The Chop House was just incredible,” Glover said. “They were enthusiastic, and got us going. Now it’s time to play on a neutral floor. We will be motivated. We have a reason to be excited.”