Be-Deviled by defense: Polk digs its way to win over Brevard

Polk County senior Kendall Hall had 30 digs in Thursday's win.

It is a simple game that Polk County’s volleyball team plays often at practice, a straightforward competition with only one rule – any ball that hits the floor means a total loss of points accumulated in the game.

They call the game Dig or Die, and Thursday night, the Wolverines gave Brevard a real-life tutorial in how it works.

Throughout its 3-1 win over the visiting Blue Devils, Polk County put its defensive skills on display. Players dove to save shots inches from the floor, chased free balls well outside the boundaries of the court, prolonged rallies with one-handed bumps and two-handed pushes and anything else to legally keep a point alive.

The atmosphere often felt like a playoff match, though Polk County’s celebration in the wake of its 24-26, 25-15, 25-12, 25-13 win was brief as the Wolverines improved to 5-2 and capped a five-match homestand with perhaps their most impressive effort to date.

“That was crazy,” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill, almost hoarse at match’s end. “They were falling all over the place, they were digging balls off the floor.

“We play a game at practice, Dig Or Die, where if you let the ball hit the floor, you lose all your points. They had that mentality tonight, not letting any balls hit the floor.”

Though falling to 1-4 on the season, Brevard certainly didn’t play like a team seeking just its second win early. The Blue Devils held on to win the first set, then displayed some outstanding defense of its own in cutting an early Polk County lead to 12-9 midway through the second set.

With the lead at 13-9 came the play that perhaps swing momentum to the Wolverines’ side for good. During a frenetic rally that had players all over the court, Polk libero Kendall Hall somehow dug a Brevard kill that already had the Blue Devils celebrating. As the point continued, Polk senior Reagan Waddell not only saved a shot headed for the scorer’s table, but somehow managed to do so at an angle to put the ball over net and keep it in play. Brevard eventually erred, and the Wolverines celebrated a point that felt like it should be worth more than one.

It took talent, it took athleticism and it took determination, and it took Polk County to a win in the set. The Wolverines steadily pulled away, and closed the game on a Grace Lauer kill to even the match at 1-1.

The teams swapped points early in the pivotal third set, reaching an 8-8 deadlock, before Polk seized command. Waddell and Lauer teamed on a block to make it 10-8, a Hall kill upped the lead to 11-8, a Marilyn Castillo kill made it 12-8, an Ansley Lynch ace pushed it to 13-8. Brevard called timeout, but the Wolverines eventually made it 12 straight points and a 20-8 advantage before Brevard finally regained serve.

But struggling to crack Polk’s defense, Brevard’s rate of forced errors began to grow, and the Wolverines soon closed out the set.

The fourth set offered less drama as Polk led from start to finish, an 11-2 spurt midway through the game effectively ending the Blue Devils’ hopes.

“I thought our defense played great, but our serving was awesome tonight,” Hill said. “We served really well.

“Every time we play Brevard, it’s a tough match and so competitive. I always enjoy playing them, and it’s become a bit of a rivalry. It was such a good game tonight.”

Hall had 30 digs and three aces for Polk, with Waddell adding 23 digs, 12 kills and two aces. Lynch had five kills, 18 digs and three aces and Lauer finished with seven kills. Castillo added four kills, Lauren Ketwitz had 10 assists and 16 digs and Sydney Waldman had 12 assists and 12 digs.

Polk County’s junior varsity also earned a victory, rallying for a 21-25, 25-16, 15-7 win.

The Wolverines travel Tuesday to Hendersonville for a non-conference clash.