Halfway there, winning with a flair.
The first half of Polk County’s regular season schedule ended Thursday, and the Wolverines closed that initial portion with its signature win to date, a 3-0 sweep of West Henderson.
Polk’s 25-19, 25-14, 25-22 victory is its second straight over the Falcons, long considered the gold standard for high school programs in Western North Carolina. The teams are meeting only once this season – no doubt a relief for the most stressed fan in the gym Thursday, Glenn Corhn, father of Polk head coach Molly Hill and West Henderson assistant coach Allyson Warren. That was him sitting alone at midcourt in neutral colors.
Make no mistake – West’s 6-6 record this season may not be as gaudy as in years past, but the Falcons have played a challenging schedule this season and are still extremely talented, led by Georgia-bound junior hitter Emma Bryson. So this win still meant quite a bit to Polk County (11-0), especially to accomplish it in three sets.
“This is always an amazing game, a lot on the line,” Hill said. “They really wanted a three-game sweep and they were pumped up about it.”
The Wolverines did many of the big things well. Morgan Yoder more than matched Bryson in the middle, posting 11 kills and serving four aces. Ada Kelley and Kylie Lewis had seven kills, Sophia Overholt had six, Mia Bradley had five. Each also played well defensively.
But there were little things, little points that typically ended in Polk’s favor and helped pave the path for the Wolverine win.
Midway through the second set, with West serving and Polk holding a 14-12 lead, Elena Carroll dove to the floor and kept a point alive with a one-handed save. That dig led to a Kelley kill, then a Kelley tip, with both giving the Wolverines a 16-12 edge.
Following a service error, Polk reeled off five straight points, grabbed a 21-13 lead and closed the set on a Lewis kill to take a 2-0 advantage.
The Wolverines then battled to a 13-8 lead in the third set before the Falcons began to rally. At 15-15, Polk had a rare defensive lapse and let a ball drop to the floor on its side of the court, putting West up by a point. But Overholt calmly responded with a soft kill off a Falcon block, and three Falcon errors and a Carroll ace gave Polk a lead it wouldn’t lose, the Wolverines closing the match with a Bradley ace.
Small things, big impact.
“I felt like at moments we struggled defensively,” Hill said. “We didn’t communicate with each other or we weren’t following balls to the line, just little things that we can control.
“But other times, we were digging these crazy hard hits and blocking really well, kind of the polar opposite and playing really well defensively. Once we finally found our happy medium, we did much better, and I was really pleased.”
The teams largely swapped points throughout the first half of the first set, trading blows much like prizefighters in a title bout. The Wolverines finally took the lead for good at 15-14, and closed the set with an Overholt kill and a Yoder ace.
The second set followed the same pattern until Carroll’s diving dig helped shift momentum firmly in Polk’s favor.
And so the Wolverines remain undefeated at the halfway point of the regular season. There are huge games with Brevard looming, the first of those in 10 days, but those weren’t on Polk’s mind Thursday evening. The Wolverines just wanted to enjoy a hard-fought victory.
“It’s been really fun so far,” Hill said. “I think that we’re just continuing to set ourselves up for success.”