When shots weren’t falling, when Gray Stone Day’s blocking thwarted attacks, when the Knights rallied to tie Thursday’s state 1A volleyball playoff match at Polk County after two sets, the Wolverines turned to the part of their game they do quite well.
All-out, face-to-the-floor defense.
Polk County players hit the hardwood to dig shots, sometimes multiple times on a single point. They raced back beyond the end line, into the scorer’s table, into the team bench, all to keep points alive.
And win more than a few of them in a 3-1 second-round postseason victory, earning the Wolverines a spot in Saturday’s third round against Lincoln Charter (23-1), the third seed in the 1A West bracket. Polk County will travel to Denver for a 5 p.m. match.
Polk County advanced and improved to 17-8 with a 25-10, 23-25, 25-18, 25-8 win and a few floor burns.
“We were super scrappy. That’s something we’ve been working on in practice,” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill. “I’m pretty pleased that we’re able to be consistent with that.”
After leading nearly the entire first set, Polk County started slowly in the second as Gray Stone Day (13-8) raced to an 8-2 lead. The Wolverines still trailed 22-15 when kills by Grace Lauer and Mireya Roman sparked a comeback, Polk pulling to within 24-23 on a Marilyn Castillo kill.
Gray Stone notched the final point of the set to win it and even the match, then jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the third set. But Polk fought back to even the match at 8-8, doing so on a Landry Edwards ace that prompted a Knights timeout.
With the set tied at 14, Polk County seized control, Kristen Hall delivering a pair of kills and a service ace during a 11-4 run to close the set. Lauer and Hall teamed on a block to claim set point and give the Wolverines a 2-1 edge.
The fourth set belonged solely to Polk. The Wolverines raced to a 5-0 lead behind a pair of Castillo kills and never slowed. Polk extended the lead to 12-3, 17-4 and finally claimed the set and match at 25-8.
“In the second set, we started slowly and didn’t execute,” Hill said. “I’m pleased that we turned it around in that third game and fought back.
“The fourth set was similar to the first set in that we maintained control the whole time.”
Lauer and Marilyn Castillo each had 14 kills for Polk, with Hall adding nine kills and 20 digs. Roman finished with nine kills as well.
Ansley Lynch had 28 digs, with Carolina Castillo adding 12. Sydney Waldman finished with 44 assists and 10 digs.