Wolverines stop East Surry, move into state semifinals

Polk County's Lauren Ketwitz, Kendall Hall and Grace Lauer celebrate the Wolverines' win Saturday over East Surry.

One more step.

Polk County continued its postseason climb Saturday, handing East Surry a 3-1 setback in a 1A state playoffs quarterfinal match before a large and loud crowd at Polk.

The Wolverines (23-3) reached the state semifinals for just the second time in school history with a solid performance, frustrating East Surry’s hard-hitting attack in handing the Cardinals just their third loss of the season and first to a 1A school.

The final obstacle to a state championship appearance? Community School of Davidson, the defending state champions and top seed in the 1A West bracket. The 20-1 Spartans, with just five dropped sets this season, will host Polk County on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the West Regional final.

“We played well, though we had a lot of unforced errors in the match,” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill. “You could tell that we were nervous early. It took us a few minutes to get settled.

“Once we played at 100 percent of our game and at our speed, we got the job done.”

Up two sets to one, Polk County inched out to an 11-8 lead in the fourth set on a Grace Lauer kill, then upped the lead to 13-9 on a Lauer two-hand push.

The Cardinals relied heavily on soft tips at the net throughout the match, and that strategy helped East Surry pull within a point and largely keep the margin there, the last time with Polk up 22-21. The Wolverines scored the next point, then reached 24-21 on an Ansley Lynch block. Match point fell Polk’s way and triggered an on-court pile of celebrating Wolverines.

“No one wants to lose the third set, but I pushed the girls to get it done in the fourth set,” Hill said. “We didn’t want to go to a fifth set.”

East Surry (26-3) brought impressive statistics into Saturday’s match, but the Cardinals never seemed fully in sync. Credit Polk County’s defense for much of that, especially as the Wolverines looked to get their offense going early.

East Surry built a 14-9 lead in the opening site, but the Wolverines answered with five straight points to tie the match, then took their first lead at 16-15 on a Reagan Waddell block.

The Wolverines pulled out to a 20-16 lead, but East Surry battled back, taking a 22-21 lead and causing Hill to call a timeout.

The teams swapped points and the match stood at 24-24 when Marissa Twitty and Lynch teamed to block an East Surry kill attempt, giving Polk a set point. Waddell emphatically claimed that point, hammering down a free ball at the net to end the set.

East Surry raced to a 7-1 lead to open the second set and still led 11-4 when Polk County began to fight back. The Wolverines finally caught the Cardinals at 20-20 on a Lauer kill, then took their first lead of the set on a Kristen Hall kill. Polk pushed ahead to a 24-21 lead, and Lynch ended the set with a quick kill in the middle, putting Polk up 2-0.

East Surry grabbed an advantage early in the third set and never let it go, keeping the margin anywhere from one to four points before closing the set with a 7-2 run for a 25-19 win, setting the stage for the final set.

Waddell finished with 14 kills, 17 digs and three solo blocks, with Lynch adding nine kills and eight digs and Lauer finishing with nine kills.

Kendall Hall had 20 digs, with Twitty adding three solo blocks and Mireya Roman two solo blocks. Lauren Ketwitz had 19 assists, with Kristen Hall adding 13 assists and Sydney Waldman finishing with nine assists.