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There's a Fork in Camden's road

Lady Bulldogs to play for AAA volleyball title

Posted: November 10, 2016 9:40 a.m.
Updated: November 11, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Jack Crayne/

MEMBERS OF THE CAMDEN High volleyball team celebrate with their classmates and fans after having defeated Powdersville on Monday night in the AAA Upper State championship match. The Lady Bulldogs will meet Bishop England for the AAA state championship on Saturday at Dutch Fork High School.

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All season long, Camden High volleyball coach Paige Wilson has used the term “potential” in describing her team and how far it could advance once the postseason rolled around.

Monday night, potential met reality as the Lady Bulldogs moved into Saturday’s AAA state title match with a 3-1 win over visiting and previously unbeaten Powdersville in a match played in front of a large and vocal crowd inside the Dog Pound.

The victory will send Wilson and company into the AAA state championship pairing against the nation’s winningest program, Bishop England of Daniel Island. The title match is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. start at Dutch Fork High School in Ballentine.

After her team’s 25-14, 20-25, 25-14, 25-17 win, Wilson was relishing the moment as her squad celebrated with their fellow students, family and fans. She said there was still more work left to be done.

“This is what we’ve been working for all year. It’s huge,” she said. “I just couldn’t be prouder of them … it’s big. Every match we’ve had in the playoffs, we’ve had to work. We stepped it up again tonight and I’m super-proud of them.”

Paced by the 1-2 punch of senior AAA All-State selections Faith Grant and Emma Nash, the Lady Bulldogs had the better of things along the net while giving the Lady Patriots plenty of problems. Grant contributed 19 kills  --- on a 30-for-31 night ---, five blocks and three aces toward the cause while Nash had 11 swings go for kills and 44 passes to target on the evening.

Camden had a slow start out of the box in this pairing, in a first set knotted at 5-5 thanks in part to several miscues on the part of the hostesses. The set remained tied at 12 before the Lady Bulldogs put together a strong closing stretch.

A kill and a block from Grant helped CHS take the lead for keeps at 14-12. When a Powdersville return sailed out of bounds, the lead grew to 15-12 while the guests called a timeout to try and slow the Camden surge.

PHS closed the gap to 15-13 when a Camden shot went out of bounds. But the home side got it back together and closed with a 10-1 run fueled in part by a Nash kill, back-to-back aces from Grant and a tip-over from Grace McGugan, who had  seven kills on a 16-for-16 night, which made it 24-14. When the Lady Pats could not return a Grant serve, sending a shot off the net antenna, it gave Camden the 11-point win.

Wilson later admitted that the big crowd and the moment itself, may have unnerved her team at the outset of the contest. Throw in the fact that PHS came in undefeated and there was a cause for a slow start.

“I think that it takes a little bit of time to learn about the other team and to get settled into the match,” Wilson said. 

“Powdersville was one of the better defensive teams that we’ve faced this year and we havd some long rallies. It took us a little bit of time then we started playing our game and started playing with confidence.”

Camden’s confidence could have been shaken in a second set in which the Lady Bulldogs struggled after getting one of Whitley Kahler’s seven kills which evened things at 11. From there, the Lady Pats went on a 4-0 run as CHS seemed to get out of sync on serve-receive. CHS was able to get to within 19-17 with a winner from Grant which came following a Powdersville timeout. When the guests put a shot into the net, it brought their advantage to 22-20.

Following a long volley which ended with an errant Camden shot, Powdersville used a carry call against Camden and a back row smash from Alexis Albright to even the match at 1-1.

Catherine Todd was, again, a sparkplug for the Camden offense in this set as well as throughout the match as she dealt out a team-best 27 assists in the four sets.

Wilson said she could sense that her team was not playing with the same sense of emotion and energy in the second set which helped lead to the setback.

“I thought we doubted ourselves,” she said of the loss. “We played quiet and we let them control the momentum; we weren’t playing our game in the second set.”

The third set followed a similar pattern as the opening pair with it being even at 11-11 before Camden went on a set-closing 14-3 spree which started with a pair of PHS returns which landed in the net and out of bounds as the Lady Bulldogs went on top, 14-12, while drawing a timeout from the Lady Pats.

With Kahler at the service stripe with a 16-12 advantage, Camden used a pair of blocks from Grant to help ignite a 4-0 rally. A McGugan shot, which found an opening along the PHS back line, made it 21-13 as CHS breezed to its second 11-point win of the match.

Not wanting to let PHS regain the momentum and carry the match into a fifth set tie-breaker, Camden broke quickly from the box in jumping to a 7-2 lead which grew to 11-4 when a deep hit for a point and a kill, both from Nash, sandwiched a winner from McGugan while Abby Irick was on the service stripe for four straight points.

With the CHS crowd getting louder with each point, Nash’s hit into no-man’s land for a point and the 19-11 lead elicited a time out from the Lady Patriots which only served to energize the hometown faithful even more.

When a Camden shot sailed out of bounds, it closed the gap to 21-16, leading Wilson to use a timeout to settle her troops down. The break served its purpose as the Lady Bulldogs closed with a 4-1 run to send them to the program’s sixth state championship appearance.

Not to be lost in Camden’s dominance at the net was the play of Courtney Chestnut, who made good on 48 of her passes to their intended target, and the serving and passing of Todd and Irick, all of whom, Wilson said, stepped up their defensive intensity on monday night.

To the surprise of no one, Camden will face Bishop England which swept Bluffton, 25-13, 25-14, 25-10, on Monday.

“I liked how we fought, even when we were behind,” Wilson said of her team’s effort. “I liked how, for the majority of the match, we played as a team. We played smart, as a rule. Now, we have to tweak some more things and be mentally prepared for the caliber of the team we’re playing in the state (finals) match but also getting ready to play in front of that many people.

“It’s a huge setting and none of these girls has ever been there before so, you have to prepare for that, too.”


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