“Being able to repeat as the area volleyball champs, I’m even happier about this particular one than last year,” Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “We haven’t had a good season. We had a tough schedule this year. We played a couple of ranked teams. We played some good teams in Calhoun County. We played Clay-Central. We tried to beef our schedule up a little bit. The girls responded when it was time.”
In order to set up the final, Fayetteville defeated TC Central, before Winterboro defeated ASD. The four county teams involved probably weren’t at their sharpest play due to having a half day of school Friday and being out of school Monday.
“We played the first game; we played really well against TC,” Fayetteville head coach Anita Simpson said. “Everybody was moving; everybody was playing their game. We sat out a game and we just got outplayed again. We got outplayed and we got outcoached, kudos to coach Smith.”
Smith was worried coming into the match because he knew Fayetteville has proven to be a worthy adversary but came away proud of his team’s play.
“As the game progressed a little bit, when you start looking at volleyball, volleyball is a sport where you can lose momentum at any given time,” Smith said. “It’s a very difficult sport to coach. You have to rely on your kids a lot. In game one and two, I thought we played a lot smarter. In the third game, we were a team that just gutted it out because it could have easily went either way. Fayetteville is a good team. They showed us that they can play throughout the regular season. They beat us 3-0 at the house, then we beat them in the county tournament. My hat is off to Fayetteville. I’m very proud of my girls.”
Winterboro won the first set 25-19. The teams played to an 8-8 tie early in the game. Winterboro gained the momentum shortly after, and following three straight serve points by Brittany McGhee, they held an 18-11 lead. Tiffany Vincent had a kill for the game-winning point.
In the second game, the teams played close with Fayetteville holding an early 13-10 advantage. Mackenzie Pennington had two kills and Shelby Wales had three straight serve points including an ace to build Fayetteville’s lead to 16-10. But the Lady Wolves couldn’t hold the lead. Down 17-14, Winterboro scored seven unanswered points all on the serving of senior Tamirra Johnson to gain a 21-17 lead.
In the third game, the two teams once again fought back and forth early on, before Winterboro gained control midway through the game. The two teams played to an 11-11 tie, but Winterboro was able to move into a 14-11 lead following three straight serve points by McGhee. Fayetteville battled, coming back to tie the game 20-20 after an ace by Catherine Nelson. Winterboro gained a 24-21 advantage, but Fayetteville cut the lead to 24-23 following an out-of-bounds return and a serve ace by Wales. Winterboro scored the game-winning point when Fayetteville was unable to make a return.
Winterboro’s All-Tournament selections were Brittany McGhee and Tiffany Vincent. MVP Jasmine Richardson earned the MVP of the tournament. Richardson had six kills and three aces in the match. Fayetteville’s All-Tournament selections were senior Eireonia Sanders and freshman Mackenzie Pennington.
Despite the loss, Fayetteville will advance to the super-regionals in Montgomery along with Winterboro. By earning the area championship, Winterboro will have a higher seeding going into the super-regionals.
“We’re going to work on strategies,” Simpson said. “That seems to get us down. It’s more mental stuff. Our skills are there; getting them all at one time is kind of hard, getting in synch together again.”
Smith said he relied heavily on his senior players. Six of Winterboro’s nine players are seniors, including the three All-Tournament selections.
“I’m extremely proud for the seniors,” Smith said following the match. “I’m extremely happy right now. I normally don’t get too emotional, but I’m very emotional inside right now because of this win. I don’t know why, but hey, I’m just proud of my girls. I’m proud of the tradition that they are trying to re-establish here for this volleyball program.”