Saturday’s Class II State Volleyball Championship could not have been a better matchup.
Vancleave and Lake Cormorant were neck and neck for the duration of the match. After five sets and a plethora of intensity, the Lady Bulldogs found a way to win the school’s first state championship with a 3-2 victory.
It was the first state title that Vancleave has enjoyed as a school, regardless of sport.
Vancleave won the opening set 25-16 but the Lady Gators evened it up in set two, 25-23.
Set three was important for Vancleave looking to take momentum back and get within one set of a state title.
With a back and forth affair tied at 22, the Lady Bulldogs would face match point five times and Lake Comorant faced it seven times. The seventh was the final blow as Vancleave won the set 36-34 and had the Bulldogs out to a 2-1 advantage.
“Before we came here the girls picked on some experiences from their past that if they got into some tough situations they would draw on,” Vancleave coach Haley Chatham said. “In our timeouts in those tough situations we brought those up and we used that to bring a title home.”
As had been the case all day, the Lady Gators kept the fight going. Lake Comorant fell down 12-8 in the set but came back to take the lead. The set was tied at 19 before LCHS scored six-straight to force a fifth set with a 25-19 win.
The Lady Bulldogs came out swinging in the decisive set. They took advantage midway through with a 7-5 lead. It was 13-11 Vancleave when the Lady Gators called for a timeout to regroup. The momentum had been seized, however, and Vancleave netted a kill to win it and bring home its first title.
Payton McKerchie led the way for the team with her 27 kills and four aces. Sydney Salter had 28 service points and 36 digs, Paige Davis had 46 assists and Sierra Buxton filled up the stat sheet with nine kills, seven digs and two aces.
On a team full of youngsters, Buxton led the way and carried the trophy off of the floor. The senior had a hard time imagining what was real as her high school career came to a close as a champ.
“I couldn’t believe that little Vancleave won a state championship,” Buxton said. “This is so sweet to go out in my senior year this way. I couldn’t be happier.”