Sophia Overholt batted away the tears starting to stream down her cheeks, which made sense given the way she’s swatted pretty much everything the past two weeks.
She had just handed off the 1A Western Regional championship trophy, the hardware earned by Polk County with its 3-0 win Tuesday evening over Highland Tech in the regional final, as well as the commemorative ball signifying her 1,000th career dig, notched during the match.
Emotions were to be expected.
“Oh my goodness, it means so much,” Overholt said of the Wolverines’ triumph. “We’ve just been working and working, working so hard every day, every practice, and to be finally be able to come to this point, it’s just a huge accomplishment.”
It’s an accomplishment that many in Polk County have expected since Overholt, Mia Bradley and Morgan Yoder first set foot on the Polk County High School campus as freshmen, headlining a class that also included Kylie Lewis, Hayden Blackwell and Lexi Beiler. An 11-14 record that first season did little to diminish expectations for the group, and Polk has gone 50-7 since. Five of those seven losses have come to conference rival Brevard, which defeated McMichael on Tuesday to advance to the 2A state final.
Now the class, in its junior year, and teammates are heading for Raleigh and Saturday’s state 1A final, where a familiar foe awaits in Falls Lake Academy. Polk County lost to Falls Lake in its first state championship trip five years ago.
“I have wanted to do this well with my team for a very long time, and I’m glad that we finally got to this point,” Bradley said. “We all came together and we just did it for each other.
“I think we all came together and realized we had one goal, and that was to win a state championship, and we all had to come together to do that.”
Team chemistry is also something that Overholt flagged as key to this year’s success, though her play has been instrumental in Polk County’s postseason run – she has recorded at least 16 kills in three straight matches, including 17 in Tuesday’s win.
“I knew it was crunch time. If we lose, we’re done, and I wanted to go out playing hard,” she said.
“I like our bond. This team is so close on and off the court. We laugh together and we share all of our time together.”
Both Overholt and Bradley said reaching a state final does relieve some of the pressure of the expectations placed on the team and the junior class. But both also noted that the journey they’ve set for themselves has not yet reached its destination.
“It’s not over yet,” Bradley said. “We still have one more game, and we just need to keep pushing and finish it off on a good note.”
A state championship would also mean a little extra for Overholt; older sisters Mariah and Olivia each have state titles won as part of Polk County’s track and field program.
“It’s my time now,” she said.