Three Lowcountry high school volleyball teams will compete for state championships on Saturday at White Knoll High School in Lexington.
For two of those teams, Wando and Bishop England, playing in a state championship is old hat. For the third, Oceanside Collegiate, Saturday will be a first.
Bishop England is the most successful program in state history and is seeking a 19th consecutive state championship when it takes on Upper State champion Powdersville in the Class AAA finals. The Bishops have won the last two Class AAA titles, including a win over Powdersville last year. Bishop England trailed 2-0 before winning the final three sets to extend their streak last year.
Bishop England coach Cindy Baggott, who is seeking her 12th championship as head coach, says this year’s team lacks the experience of previous championship teams. In fact, Bishop England enters the finals with a losing record, 20-32-2.
“The big challenge was we had only five returners to the team and only two were out on the floor a lot last year,” Baggott said. “It was a new experience for our program with seven freshmen on the roster.
"We couldn’t look at wins and losses. We had to look at how we were developing and growing as a team and we managed to do that as the season went along. They rose to the challenge. It has been cool to see them develop as a team.”
Senior all-state selections Madeline White and Kelsey Stieby are the veteran leaders of the team. White leads the team in kills (309) and blocks (43) while Stieby sets the table offensively with 950 assists and 367 defensive digs.
Junior Shawna Swanson leads the team in digs with 461 while senior Sydney Scott has 242.
Wando is making its sixth consecutive appearance in the state finals, losing each of the last two years in the Class AAAAA finals to Dorman.
Wando has been the state’s top-ranked team all season, posting a 49-3 record. Coach Alexis Glover, who reached 1,000 career wins during the season and is the winningest coach in state history, had to replace six seniors from last year’s team but returned a talented cast.
Senior setter Maddie Boylston, senior middle Sarah Missroon and junior outside hitter Grae Gosnell are Class AAAAA all-state selections. Boylston is headed to Virginia to play while Missroon is signing with Appalachian State.
“We had some big shoes to fill but these girls did a great job of building the chemistry,” Glover said. “We play a competitive schedule and I think that helps us so much. We had to go on the road in the playoffs and we managed those well. We showed a lot of composure in the tough playoff environments.”
Gosnell, one of the state’s top underclassmen, leads Wando with 485 kills. Missroon adds 339 kills and 132 blocks while senior Abbey Schad adds 294 kills and 63 blocks.
Boylston runs the show as the setter with 1,319 assists. Junior Ali Jahn leads the club with 468 defensive digs while junior Haley Jenness has 297 digs.
Oceanside Collegiate coach Amir Khaledi made his mark in coaching at the college and Olympic level before delving into the prep ranks.
Khaledi is the former head coach at Charleston Southern, winning four Big South Conference titles and is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame. He also spent time at The Citadel and was a member of the men’s Iranian Olympic coaching staff in 2016.
Khaledi also has spent nearly 20 years as a coach in the junior club development program in Charleston so coaching high school athletes is not entirely new. But, taking a three-year old program to the state finals in his first season as head coach is an accomplishment he is quite proud of.
“As a coach, it doesn’t matter what level you coach at, you want to be successful and you want to develop players,” Khaledi said. “It was a challenge putting it all together but these girls have been great. They work very hard and they love the game. It’s really been a lot of fun this year. I am very fortunate to be the head coach at Oceanside.”
Oceanside (34-9) will take on perennial power St. Joseph’s Catholic in the Class AA finals. St. Joseph’s has won seven consecutive titles, including the last two in Class AA.
Juniors Olivia Yarborough and Sophie Meredith anchor the Oceanside lineup. Both were named Class AA all-state this season. Yarborough has recorded 245 kills and 64 service aces while Meredith has 682 assists and 110 aces.
Sophomore Taylor Hills has 203 kills and sophomore Reese Vorster has 33 blocks. Senior Sierra Wolter is a defensive leader in the back with 230 digs.
State Volleyball Championships
(Saturday at White Knoll High School)
Class AA: Oceanside Collegiate vs. St. Joseph’s, Noon
Class AAA: Bishop England vs. Powdersville, 2:30 p.m.
Class AAAAA: Wando vs. Nation Ford, 7 p.m.
Admission is $10 (kids 5 and under free)