Sophia Overholt wasn’t quite certain how to answer a reporter’s question about her Most Valuable Player award in Saturday’s 1A state championship match in Raleigh.
Head coach Molly Hill, though, knew just what to say.
“She has been one of our dominant hitters since she was 14,” Hill said. “And I think it’s always a goal of hers to just be a stud. She’s so athletic and she’s a stud in everything she does.
“For her to win MVP from the North Carolina High School Athletic Assocation, on this stage and this level, that’s just huge for her and it shows the kind of athlete she is. It shows what she means to us because we depend on her so much, and she just rises to the occasion every single game.”
Overholt has risen to the occasion all season for Polk County, but has been especially lethal in the postseason. She had another solid game hitting Saturday in the Wolverines’ 25-19, 25-22, 25-22 victory over Falls Lake.
She had three kills in the first seven points of the match, helping set the tone for Polk County and perhaps calming any early nerves. She also dove to save a ball in the second set, winding up below a row of tables set up next to the court.
Polk County won that point.
“I just knew that I was not going to let any ball drop,” Overholt said. “We play this game called Dig or Die. If you drop the ball, you die. And if somebody got a touch, I was not going to let that ball drop and do whatever it takes to get the ball up.”
Getting defensive: Falls Lake players and coaches talked after the game about not seeing a defense the caliber of Polk County’s at any point in their run to the state final.
That isn’t an accident. Hill, who played as a libero in college at Lees-McRae, has stressed the importance of a good defense since her arrival in Polk County.
“We’re a very good defensive team,” she said. “We do passing, serve receive and blocking every single practice. The girls know the importance of that. I really try to instill that in the girls.”
Demise of Deborah: A good-luck charm for the Wolverines met an untimely end in the post-match celebration.
Deborah, a small pinata, has been a constant companion for the Wolverines throughout the playoffs. It’s actually a tradition that began last season, when Polk County reached the third round of the 2A playoffs before falling at East Surry.
“We’ve had her since our first game of playoffs, and I guess she’s like a good luck charm,” Overholt said.
“We had a pinata last year,” said senior Ada Kelley. “We lost in the third round against East Surry, and we it passed it on to East Surry’s team.
“So this year they got another one, and the actually took the horn off of it because we played the Rams (Highland Tech). So we made it a horse instead of a unicorn, and it’s just been like our little mascot.”
Deborah, though, will cheer on the Wolverines no more.
“We destroyed her,” Hill laughed. “We celebrated so hard, and they ripped that thing apart.”
All in the MF7 Family: Prior to Polk County’s win, Brevard also claimed the first state volleyball title in school history, sweeping past Camden County.
That meant two state champions from the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference, a rarity that doesn’t appear to have ever been accomplished in the volleyball playoffs.
Polk County’s only losses this season were to Brevard.
“It just shows the power of our conference,” Hill said. “Kings Mountain (the 3A champion) is 45 minutes from us. They won. Brevard, in our conference, they won.
“Volleyball in the west is huge. It’s becoming the sport that girls want to play. Everybody’s playing travel, everybody’s getting involved and just growing and you can see that. That shows today, and I love it.”
Jersey fun: Polk County junior Mia Bradley played Saturday’s final in Mikala Fisher’s jersey after picking up the wrong bag when departing the team bus at Reynolds Coliseum.
Bradley realized her typical jersey, 4, was not in her bag just minutes before the end of Brevard’s win over Camden County in the 2A final. That set off a mad round of phone calls and text messages, with Bradley’s parents finally racing to the bus that, by then, was several minutes from Reynolds.
No one could find Bradley’s jersey on the bus, though – Hill said it was in a bag beneath the bus. So she approached the match referee and confirmed that Bradley could wear Fisher’s jersey.
Fisher, a senior, was injured and unable to play Saturday. But fortunately for Polk County, she brought her jersey to the match.
“Mikala saved the day for us,” Hill said.
State champ, again: Saturday’s game marked the first title for Hill in her 10th season as Polk County’s head coach. She has a remarkable 192-60 record in those 10 seasons.
It also was her second state title, having won a 2A title in 2008 as a player at West Henderson.
She said there was no comparison between the two.
“I feel like I’ve worked so hard as a coach and this has been a goal for so many years,” she said. “It was good as a player, but I burst into happy tears at the end. It takes so much time and energy and everything you’ve got. You love these kids like they’re your own.
“I’m so excited for them, and for the school and for them making history. They deserved it.”
Quick Hits: Polk County’s Kylie Lewis received an NCHSAA Sportsmanship Award before the match. Falls Lake’s Maggie Penn also received the same award as one is given to each finalist. . . Falls Lake loses just one senior from this year’s club and could repeat its feat of back-to-back finals first done in 2018-19. The Firebirds won both of those. . .Falls Lake never led by more than a point at any time in the match until the third set, when the Firebirds built a three-point edge. Polk overcome that with a 7-1 run to close the match, with Morgan Yoder recording four kills in those seven points. . . This is the ninth state championship for a Polk County team and the first for a Wolverine girls team since a girls soccer title in 2009. . . Sophia Overholt is the fourth member of her family to win a state title at Polk County, with older sisters Mariah and Olivia winning individual track titles and older brother Dillon part of the Wolverines’ 2018 boys track state champs. . . Polk will lose three starters from Saturday’s match – Ada Kelley, Zaelea Eller and Elena Carroll.