High expectations, quality opponents – Polk County is battling both in this year’s state 1A volleyball playoffs.
And, thus far, doing well with each.
The Wolverines moved Tuesday into the third round with a 3-0 victory over Swain, earning a third-round home match on Thursday with a 25-12, 25-14, 25-13 win.
Visiting Polk for that third-round game will be a familiar foe – Community School of Davidson. The Spartans (20-6) and Wolverines (21-4) last met in the 2017 Western Regional final, with CSD defeating Polk en route to claiming the 1A state championship. Thursday’s match is set for 7 p.m.
Grace Lauer had 11 kills and Kristen Hall had eight as Polk County stayed in control of play from start to finish, eliminating the Maroon Devils (13-12) for the second straight season. That win a year ago started Polk on its trip to the 1A state final. The Wolverines hope this year’s victory can help do the same.
“We’re all very aware of it (the pressure),” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill. “I feel like sometimes I’m more aware of it or nervous than them, so I’m trying not to let that show. I’m trying to just be cool and casual for the girls. But I think they’re doing an excellent job of handling the pressure. They all want it so bad.
“I keep telling them that we’ve got to play confident, we’ve got to play our speed, we’ve got to have fun, not to let the stress get to them. I’m really proud of them. I really think they’re doing that. We, of course, had moments, stuff we need to clean up. But I was impressed.”
Polk broke a 4-4 tie in the opening set with five straight points on Marilyn Castillo’s serve and pushed the lead to 10 at 17-7. Swain scored four quick points to slice the deficit to six, but the Wolverines regained serve and closed the set. That pattern largely played out in the second set as well, with Polk surging out to a 14-8 lead and eventually closing the set on a Marissa Twitty kill on a free ball at the net.
Swain briefly lead in the final set, but Polk again pushed ahead and steadily built the lead before closing the match on a Castillo two-hand push shot into the back corner.
Hall added 15 digs, with Carolina Castillo and Karla Olguin each recording eight digs. Marilyn Castillo finished with seven kills and Sydney Waldman recorded 33 assists to move past the 1,900 mark for her career.
Polk County also continued its strong defensive play of late, a factor that Hill knows will be more important as the playoffs continue. Senior libero Carolina Castillo has helped anchor that defense.
“In the last two weeks, Carolina has really stepped up and she’s been running the show on back row,” Hill said. “She’s just been getting the job done and getting balls up that are amazing. I’m very impressed with her and how she’s playing right now. It’s everybody on back row, right now, and at the net we’re blocking well. So it’s been good.”