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Bishops block Camden’s state championship quest

Lady Bulldogs fall to Bishop England in AAA title match

Posted: November 14, 2016 4:30 p.m.
Updated: November 15, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Johnny Deal/C-I/

CAMDEN’S CATHERINE TODD (22) sets hitter Faith Grant (20) while Abby Irick (5) looks on during the Lady Bulldogs’ loss to Bishop England in Saturday’s AAA state championship match played at Dutch Fork High School in Ballentine.

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BALLENTINE --- There was a glimmer of hope in a second set in which Camden climbed from a 9-0 hole to take a 17-16 lead over Bishop England in Saturday’s AAA state championship volleyball match at Dutch Fork High School.

When a return shot from the Bishops landed in the Camden net, it sent the large Lady Bulldog crowd into a frenzy. But as Bishop England has done since winning its first South Carolina High School League state title in 1977, the Daniel Island squad was ready with a response.

The Bishops fended off the CHS rally by going on a 9-3 run to take a 25-20 win and go up, 2-0, after two sets. BE, which won the opener, 25-13, put the finishing touches on its national record 27th state title --- and 17th straight --- by taking the nightcap, 25-18.

Camden finished its season with a 32-5-1 mark while returning to the AAA state championship match for the first times since falling to Pickens in 2002.

Playing on the state’s biggest stage may have had an effect on Camden which made several uncharacteristic mistakes as BE (24-10) jumped to an 11-4 lead to open the match. That led Lady Bulldog coach Paige Wilson to burn a timeout in order to try and regroup her girls.

Wilson later admitted that it took her team a few points to settle down and settle into the match.

“I think we were maybe trying a little too hard to make big plays and with the stress of the big match made too many unforced errors. It wasn’t our best day,” she said. “But I am proud of what this team accomplished this season. We had an amazing season; improving greatly from beginning to end and made a fantastic tournament run. We should not hang our heads losing to a team that has won the number of state championship matches that Bishop England has. We are champs in my eyes.”

The slow start from the box and being gathered back along the sidelines by Wilson was not enough for Camden to chop the deficit to being more manageable as BE used a 4-1 spree forcing the Lady Bulldogs to call a second time out as the Bishop lead grew into double digits at 16-5. CHS would never get closer than 10 points when a BE shot landed in the net to make it 23-13.

“The first set,” Wilson said of her team’s start, “we were way too tight. We were way too tense. We had too many errors in the first set and we may have gotten a bit frustrated when the usual things weren’t working for us. Bishop England is a very skilled team with a lot of experience in this setting.” 

As badly as things went in the opening set, it would get worse for Camden in the second.

An errant CHS shot on a return gave BE a 1-0 lead which quickly grew to 7-0 as Wilson called a timeout following an out of bounds return. By the time the Lady Bulldogs scored their first point on a Faith Grant kill, BE had rattled off the first nine points of the second set.

Trailing 15-5, the CHS comeback started when Emma Nash’s shot was not returned. That touched off a 9-1 Lady Bulldog rally. The run had Nash on the service stripe for four straight points including a Courtney Chestnut ball which never made it back to the Camden side as BE seemed to be making similar miscues as Camden did in the first set.

CHS scored three straight points with Chestnut serving up an ace followed by Whitley Kahler’s sending a point over the heads of a pair of blockers before a Grant kill cut the lead to 16-14 as BE head coach Cindy Baggott called a timeout while the Camden crowd roared its approval.

“I knew we had a chance and it showed that we could play with them,” Wilson said of her team’s coming back from a nine-point deficit. “We had to stay mentally in it the entire time. That is a good team and we let it get to us when they stopped us or (shots) wouldn’t go down for us.”

A pair of BE errors led to Camden taking its first lead of the match at 17-16. But the Bishops had an answer in the form of a 6-1 run which returned the lead to them at 22-18 as Wilson called a time out.

The Bishops would overcome two points courtesy of Grant, including a kill to make it 24-20, and hang on for the 25-20 win.

Having to put so much energy into getting back into the thick of things in the second set may have taken too much out of the Lady Bulldogs to complete the task in the middle set and, possibly, the third.

“I thought we showed that we could do it,” Wilson said, “we were unable, today, to maintain that same kind of performance the whole match.”

Camden had its largest lead of the afternoon in the final set as a throw over from Grace McGugan found a hole on the BE side of the floor to put the Lady Bulldogs on top, 6-4. The two sides battled to a 10-10 tie following another Kill from Grant. CHS was still in striking position when a McGugan tip landed on the floor as Camden trailed by one at 13-12.

The Bishops would use kills from Regan McKinley and Emma Lawrence to hike the lead to 22-15 with Lawrence’s blast drawing one last time out from Wilson, whose team received an ace from Kahler for their final point of the season which made it 24-18 before a ball hit from BE’s Kathleen Griffith was not returned for the clincher.

“I was very proud of how we made a comeback in set two and were competitive in the third set,” Wilson said. “I think we settled down a little and tried to adjust to what we were facing from Bishop England.”

Wilson said the character of her team came through when the Lady Bulldogs battled back to grab the lead in the second set.

“We were facing a tough opponent,” she said. “We had to settle down and recognize what we had on the other side of the net and we played smart and to our strengths. I’m real proud of them for showing that fight … we had a good run in the second and third sets.”

Before finishing with questions following the completion of the match, Wilson wanted to make sure that she thanked the CHS students and the hundreds of fans who filled the bleachers at her team’s home matches --- especially in the post season --- and again on Saturday as the Lady Bulldog faithful dwarfed any of the crowds who were in the Dutch Fork gym for any of the day’s first four of five state championship matches.

“I really appreciate our school and community support,” she said. “Volleyball is a sport that doesn’t always get many fans but it makes such a difference to these girls. We packed our gym in the playoffs and the Dutch Fork gym for the state championship match and we all appreciated it so much.  Thank you Camden.”


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