Two of South Carolina's most storied volleyball programs squared off Wednesday night. In one corner, there was Bishop England, winner of nine straight High School League state championships at the Class AA level. In the other corner was Ashley Hall, winner of nine of the last 11 SCISA Class AAA state championships.
The Bishops made it look somewhat easy with a 25-19, 25-15, 25-20 victory.
Bishop England coach Cindy Baggott hasn't cleared a space in the trophy case for some more state hardware just yet, but she was impressed with her team's play.
"At this point, I'd hope that we can win another title," she said after her team improved its regular season record to 10-0. "But nothing is a given. This was probably the best I've seen our team play since the season started."
Baggott had praise for the play of Katie Cummings, Mary Crawford James, CC Deas and Rebecca Kerrison, players who have helped build the Bishop dynasty. The Bishops have won every Class AA state title in the new millennium.
The match lacked the intensity of the encounter earlier in the season when Bishop England and Ashley Hall battled in the Tournament of Champions, which was hosted by Dorman High School. The Bishops prevailed and went on to claim third place in the prestigious event.
Franny Slay, who is in her 25th season as coach of the Panthers, was disappointed with her team's play.
"That was not even my team," she said. "We had no rhythm, and our passes weren't good so we couldn't run our offense."
Ashley Hall still will always have talent, but the Panthers are still adjusting to life without Rachel Ellyn, Arden Hare and Katherine Morrison, three talented players who graduated in May.
"They never came off the court," Slay said. "That's a lot of talent to replace. But we have girls who are used to our system. It just takes a little time."
The Bishops will play Ashley Ridge next week in a key Region 6-AA battle. That match will be a good indication of who is the Class AA boss in the Lowcountry. After that, Bishop England will play in the Lexington invitational, which will be held Oct. 2-3.
"We're starting to see where we stand," Baggott said. "But once you get to the playoffs, nothing is a given."