Midway through the second game of their match with East Rutherford on Tuesday night, Polk County’s Wolverines found themselves somewhere they hadn’t been much all night.
They were trailing.
Instead of panicking, instead of even calling a timeout, Wolverines coach Molly Hill elected to try to let her team fix it on their own.
They responded, coming back to take the game and a 3-0 (25-10, 25-17, 25-18) win over the Cavaliers, setting up a massive match against Brevard on Thursday.
“We have been talking so much in the last few weeks about mental toughness, staying focused, working together as a team, and that’s why I deliberately didn’t call a timeout,” Hill said. “At one point we were down, and I still didn’t call a timeout because I knew they could do it. I had that confidence in them, and I wanted them to feel that I had that confidence.
“And I also wanted them to work together and to figure that out.”
The Wolverines (20-1, 8-1) did exactly what their coach wanted to see. After easily dispatching the Cavaliers (15-7, 7-5) in the first game and jumping out to a 10-5 lead in the second, Polk County seemed to let their intensity dwindle a bit. The Cavaliers pulled to within one at 12-11, tied it at 13 all, then took a 14-13 advantage.
And that’s where it stopped. A combo block by Morgan Yoder and Ada Kelley tied it again at 14, and Polk County was off and running. Yoder’s kill pushed it to 17-14. Kelley extended the lead to 20-15, and Mia Bradley followed her with a kill to make it 21-15. Down the stretch, Kylie Lewis and Sophia Overholt both had kills around Yoder’s ace to provide the final three points for a 2-0 lead.
“It worked to our advantage, and they came back,” Hill said.
Game three was more of the same, as Polk County built a 13-5 advantage and pulled away for the win.
“Before the third set I told them we know what we have to do for the rest of this week, what we’ve been working on in preparation for this week, so do something in this third set that’s going to prepare you for what you know is coming,” Hill said. “I feel like they did that. Our speed was better, our passing was better, we ran our offense better, and everything just picked up.”
What’s coming is a showdown on Thursday with Brevard, a 3-1 winner over the Wolverines earlier in the season. A Polk County win would earn the Wolverines a share of the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference regular-season title.
“We’re hoping to have a good practice tomorrow,” Hill said. “We know what to expect. We know what to prepare for. We’ve been preparing for it for about two and a half weeks now, just getting in that mindset.
“I think a lot of that game is going to come down to who can be more mentally tough, who can fight it out and who can battle.”