The unexpected brought a bit of a delay to the expected Tuesday evening at Polk County.
The Wolverines are still set for a third clash with Brevard, this one on Wednesday in the championship match of the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference Tournament. Polk did its part to reach the final with a 3-1 defeat of Hendersonville in a home semifinal match.
But the surprise expanded appearance of Bearcat standout Lola Sultenfuss and a wave of sickness rolling through the Wolverine lineup added some drama to the 25-22, 25-15, 20-25, 25-21 victory.
Polk County still improved to 21-2 and will meet the Blue Devils (18-5) in the 6 p.m. title match at Polk. Brevard advanced to the final with a 3-0 rout of Patton in the other semifinal.
Save for Tuesday’s second set, the match was close throughout, with neither team ever pulling away to a large lead. The first set was tied at 22-22, the fourth set at 20-20 – a few points here and there and the night might have ended much differently for the Wolverines.
“Everybody’s sick,” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill. “We’ve got girls that are missing, girls that left to home early today, and then you’ve got girls that probably should be at home right now.
“Luckily they’re tough and they play through it, but you could tell that everybody was kind of down tonight. Everybody was tired and sick.”
At 22-all in the opening set, Sophia Overholt delivered a kill and two Hendersonville errors gave Polk the game and a 1-0 lead. The Wolverines largely controlled the second set, racing to a 12-5 advantage and keeping the Bearcats (7-13) from rallying to grab a 2-0 lead.
Sultenfuss, Hendersonville’s standout senior hitter who was was injured in early September, was not at full strength, but still began to establish her presence at the net in the third set. She and fellow senior SJ Shaffer helped power a run of six straight points that gave the Bearcats a 22-14 edge.
The Wolverines fought back with an Overholt kill and ace, an Elysia Smith block and another Overholt kill to cut the margin to 22-18. But Sultenfuss hammered a kill off a Polk block, and then Shaffer helped seal the game and force a fourth set.
“We had heard that (Sultenfuss) was back, but was only in the back row,” Hill said. “She throws up a big block and she kept blocking our right sides a lot. So I had to call a timeout and specifically say we have to hit around her, we have to see her. It makes a big difference when she’s on the court for them.”
Polk’s Morgan Yoder opened the fourth set with a thunderous kill and the Wolverines jumped out to a 7-2 lead. Polk eventually built an 18-10 advantage, only to see the Bearcats rally and even the set at 20-all.
An Elena Carroll kill and two Hendersonville miscues gave Polk a 23-20 lead. The teams then swapped points before a Yoder tip ended the match.
Overholt had 14 kills, and Ada Kelley adding eight and Yoder finishing with six. Mia Bradley had 17 assists while Amberlyn Scruggs had 12 assists.
“We got through it, and now we’re going to go home and try to take care of ourselves and get ready for (Wednesday),” Hill said.
“I think they’re pumped up for it. They’re a little nervous, which I think is good. There are big expectations and there’s lots of pressure, but I think we’re ready, and I’m hoping we can get kind of healthy and come in and be ready to play.”