Polk Middle rallies to reach championship showdown with Rugby

Polk Middle's Kristen Hall attacks the Brevard defense in Wednesday's match.

A set down to Brevard Middle on Wednesday, Polk County Middle head volleyball coach Matthew Russell reminded his Wolverines that they’d fought back from a similar deficit earlier this season to beat Rugby.

One comeback later, another date with Rugby awaits.

The Wolverines rallied for a 24-26, 25-21, 25-8 win over Brevard Middle at Polk Middle in the semifinals of the Blue Ridge Middle School Conference postseason tournament. The win sends Polk Middle (13-1) into Monday’s championship game, where the Wolverines will host Rugby at 4:30 p.m. The two teams split their regular-season meetings. Rugby is the defending conference champion.

Brevard (10-4) lost its two regular-season meetings with Polk, but the Blue Devils were more than up to the challenge of trying to avoid a third loss. Brevard eked out the first-set win, then stormed to an 8-3 lead in the second set.

But Polk began inching back into the game, finally tying the score at 9-9 and then taking an 11-9 advantage. The lead remained at two, 18-16, when Polk reeled off five straight points, the run capped by a Mireya Roman ace and a Kristen Hall tip, for a 21-16 advantage. Brevard never recovered from that run, Polk rolling to a 12-3 lead in the third set and cruising to the win, setter Sydney Waldman serving the final two points.

“I wasn’t happy with the way we started,” Russell said. “We were playing not to lose and playing nervous. That’s as bad as we’ve played in a while.

“But I told them, girls, we’ve been in this spot before. We lost 30-28 to Rugby in the first set when we played here and we came back and won two straight sets and got the win. The girls knew they could do it. We’ve got a lot of respect for Brevard. They got better every time we played them. I see this as a really good test to get us ready for Monday.”

Polk’s defensive play proved key in the win, the Wolverines routinely handling Brevard’s attacks, keeping balls alive and in play for their offense.

“We played really well defensively,” Russell said. “Landry Edwards really stepped up today on the back row. She did a heckuva job. She was instrumental in the win.”