DENVER – Pregame warmups over Saturday afternoon, Molly Hill had a feeling.
Good feeling. The kind you want to have ahead of a state playoff game. The sense that Polk County’s attackers were on target and ready to go.
A feeling that couldn’t have been much more spot on.
Its offense clicking, Polk County advanced to the state 1A volleyball quarterfinals with a 3-1 upset of Lincoln Charter, knocking off the Eagles 25-16, 17-25, 25-9, 27-25.
The Wolverines (18-8) will next face Alleghany (22-3), the No. 2 seed in the 1A West bracket. That quarterfinal matchup is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Alleghany.
At times Saturday it felt like a Polk County home game, not only because of the sizable Wolverine fan contingent in attendance, but also the comfort Polk County showed on the Machado Gymnasium court.
The Wolverines scored first in all four sets, had leads of at least seven points in three of the four and largely controlled play against the third-seeded Eagles (23-2).
After dropping the second set to even the match, Polk County rebounded with a dominant third set. Grace Lauer had six kills in the set, and Marilyn Castillo wrapped it with back-to-back kills to give the Wolverines a 2-1 edge.
Perhaps no play summed up the third set better than Ansley Lynch’s swing from the back row that hit the top of the net and seemed to hang there for a second or two before rolling over and to the floor, giving Polk a 14-5 lead.
The teams traded points in the fourth set before Polk County went on a 8-1 run to grab a 14-7 lead. The Wolverines capped that run with a Mireya Roman kill, two Lauer kills, a block by Roman and Sydney Waldman and another Roman kill.
Lincoln Charter, though, began chipping away at the Polk lead, scoring five straight points late in the set to even the score at 23-23. The Eagles then pushed ahead 25-24 and served for the set, but a Lauer kill tied the match and returned the serve to Polk.
Waldman delivered a serve that Lincoln Charter couldn’t get back over the net, giving the Wolverines their second match point of the set. Castillo closed it out with a push over the net that the Eagles failed to return, ending the match.
“I knew we were on,” Hill said. “I told Sydney (Polk’s setter) to really push it out to our hitters who were on. We played really well and I’m super proud of them.”
Not daunted by the challenge of being on the road, Polk County grabbed an early lead in the first set, with Lauer and Kristen Hall delivering kills during a run that gave Polk a 12-7 lead.
The Wolverines pushed the edge to 17-10 and never let Lincoln Charter get closer than six points the rest of the set.
The Eagles quickly erased an early Polk lead in the second set and pulled ahead 15-9. The Wolverines fought back to within a point at 16-15, but the Eagles scored nine of the next 11 points to close the set and even the match.
“Before the third set, I made a little joke in the huddle that it wouldn’t be Polk County volleyball if we didn’t lose our minds a little bit,” Hill said. “That second set was all on us. We made error after error after error.
“I really just tried to calm them down and get them to relax and make them feel comfortable. I think it worked, as we came out and dominated the third set.”
Lauer had 15 kills for Polk County, with Castillo also finishing with 15 kills and six blocks. Roman had nine kills and five blocks while Meadow Becker had eight blocks.
Polk County’s defense also shone, with Ansley Lynch notching 24 digs, Hall posting 14 digs and Carolina Castillo adding 12 digs. Waldman finished with 44 assists.