One point, one simple point in a season of hundreds of them that Polk County would have given anything to win.
The Wolverines had a match point Thursday that didn’t fall their way, and neither did many of the ones that followed, enough to allow Community School of Davidson to escape with a 3-2 victory in the third round of the state 1A volleyball playoffs at Polk.
The loss ends a run of three straight 20-win seasons for Polk’s senior class, this one a 21-5 mark, and three straight finishes among the final 16 teams in the state. The group played in back-to-back regional finals and last year’s state 1A championship, the first team in school history to do so.
In time, those accomplishments will overshadow Thursday’s result.
“I hate it for the seniors,” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill. “They all really wanted it and I really wanted it and it’s just hard. It’s just really hard.
“They should hold their heads high. They’ve had a great season. These seniors accomplished a lot in four years.”
After splitting the first two sets, Polk County steamrollled CSD (21-6) in the third. Behind the serving of Marilyn Castillo, Polk scored the first nine points of the set, led 19-3 at one point and finished off the set on a Castillo ace, giving the Wolverines a 2-1 lead.
CSD’s entire team left the court at that point, and whatever was said in the hallway outside the gym certainly proved effective. The Spartans jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the fourth and still led 20-13 when Polk called its second timeout of the set.
Kristen Hall’s tip for a point following the timeout stopped CSD’s run, and the Wolverines scored five more points to cut the deficit to 20-19. CSD standout Loren Johnson had a pair of kills around Emma Karant’s ace to make it 23-19, but the Wolverines continued to rally. Polk tied the match at 23-23 with a block of Johnson, then won the next point for a 24-23 lead and match point.
Johnson, who hurt Polk all night with off-speed tips, got one to fall to even the set, then put down a kill to give the Spartans a set point. CSD claimed that one to force the deciding fifth set.
The Spartans rolled to a 5-0 lead to open the fifth and Polk never got closer than four points in the set, a service error ending the match. It marked the second time in three seasons that CSD eliminated Polk County, both of those falling on Halloween.
“They adjusted their libero before the fourth set, and that made a difference,” Hill said. “They had a great outside hitter (Johnson) and we couldn’t shut her down all night.”
Though Johnson had success in the first set with those well-placed tips, Polk County led the entire set and closed it out with a Grace Lauer kill.
Lauer opened the second set with three kills to give Polk a 5-1 lead, but CSD fought back to tie the set and it stayed largely knotted throughout. Polk fought off one CSD set point and tied the match at 25, but a Johnson tip and a Catherine Grice block gave the Spartans the final two points to even the match.
Sydney Waldman had 38 assists, 13 digs and five blocks for Polk County, with Lauer finished with 19 kills. Hall had 34 digs and six kills, with Marilyn Castillo finishing with 11 kills, Carolina Castillo recording 21 digs and Mireya Roman recording eight blocks and three kills.