To borrow a certain school district’s theme for this year, Polk County Middle served.
The Wolverines found themselves in the unexpected position Monday afternoon of being a set down to visiting Smoky Mountain Middle. But Polk rebounded with a dominant serving effort that led to a 15-25, 25-7, 15-4 victory over the Mustangs in the opening round of the Blue Ridge Conference Tournament.
Polk Middle (12-1), the top seed from the BRC East, will host either Brevard Middle or Waynesville Middle in Wednesday’s semifinals. That match will begin at 4:30 p.m.
With a teacher workday meaning few students in attendance and also a fairly small crowd present as well, most of the noise in the first set came from the visitors’ side of the court. The Mustangs (3-10) trailed 5-1 early in the first set, but reeled off six straight points, grew the lead to 10-6 and never led by less than four points the rest of the set.
But the Wolverines have served well throughout the season, and that strength paid off starting in the second set. Beiji Olivari’s serving helped Polk build a 6-0 lead, the final two points on aces. At 9-2, Ava Evans served consecutive aces, giving Polk an 11-2 margin – which also sparked the Wolverine bench and crowd. Evans continued to serve points, capping her run with an ace that gave the Wolverines a 16-2 advantage.
Polk ended the set with a Cate Brown back-row kill that ticked the top of the net and trickled over, giving the Wolverines a 25-7 win and all the momentum.
The Wolverines won the coin toss and earned first serve in the deciding set. Olivari delivered it with an ace, Brown added another one early and Polk raced to a 5-2 lead before a lengthy delay due to a question about the score. The Wolverines kept their focus and steadily pulled away after the break, sealing the win on consecutive aces by Reeve Carroll.
“Serving has definitely been our strength this season,” said Polk Middle head coach Kenny Hall. “When we are good, we’re tough to handle.
“Give Smoky Mountain a lot of credit. They played very well. They should be proud of how they came in here, on the road. We finally got our energy up, and that’s what led to our comeback and taking the win.”