Polk County Middle kept its cool Monday and kept the lead in the Blue Ridge Conference East Division.
The Wolverines never panicked in a division showdown with Rugby, sticking with their game plan and outlasting the Raiders 25-20, 25-21 in a home battle.
Polk Middle improved to 8-1 overall, with Rugby dropping to 5-2. The Wolverines moved a game in front of the Raiders in the East Division standings, with another matchup set for season’s end.
Polk Middle head coach Kenny Hall knows that rematch will be just as challenging as Monday’s win. Both sets were basically dead even until the final stages, when the Wolverine defense provided vital stops at key moments against Rugby’s big-hitting attack.
“These teams are pretty evenly matched,” Hall said. “Our girls kept their emotions in check and didn’t lose their cool in pressure situations. Ultimately, that led to the win.
“We played cool under pressure and we believed in the work we’ve been putting in.”
The teams deadlocked at 15-15, the first set tilted Polk’s way on a run of four straight points that included a Reeve Carroll kill, an Abby Pruitt ace and an Amiyah Waters kill. The Wolverines never led that four-point edge slip below three, with a Sofie Abrahamsen block helping stop one Rugby rally before Carroll closed the set with a kill.
The second set largely unfolded in the same manner, the teams swapping points. At 19-17, Polk put together a 5-2 run that included an Olivia Kirk ace and another Carroll kill to move to match point. Rugby responded with a pair of points before a net violation gave the Wolverines the win.
“I always tell the girls that you don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to play well in big games,” Hall said. “They played well today.”
Polk Middle will begin its second trip through the BRC East Division on Wednesday, traveling to Apple Valley.