CHARLESTON – After playing a grueling five-set match Saturday in the Class AAA Region 3 volleyball championship match, Woodrow Wilson and George Washington squared off again Friday.
This time the meeting was in the state volleyball tournament on the biggest stage – the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.
As expected the match again took five sets to decide a winner but unfortunately for the Flying Eagles, they were on the wrong side this time of the 3-2 decision.
“When you play a really good team, that is the way it is going to go,” George Washington head coach Missy Smith said. “Every point will be contested and every set is going to be close, except for set four today. That is how volleyball is supposed to be played.”
Set one established the tone for the match with 12 ties and no lead bigger than three points. Trailing 20-17, Woodrow outscored the Patriots 8-3 down the stretch for a 25-23 win.
In set two, the Flying Eagles took control early, fighting off a couple of runs from GW to lead 18-13 which was their biggest lead of the set.
Woodrow appeared to be ready to take a crucial 2-0 lead in the match leading 23-19, only to see the Patriots answer the bell.
Trailing 23-22, senior Faith Smith hit back-to-back aces to give her team the lead. Elysia Salon evened the set with a tip, but GW scored the final two points for the comeback win.
“We had errors today that we couldn’t fix and they capitalized on those errors,” Woodrow Wilson head coach Bre Rhodes said. “That was the difference. When we played them last week, we didn’t make many errors. We forced them to make the errors, but we couldn’t do that today.”
A five-point lead for Woodrow midway through set three dissipated when the Patriots fought back to tie the match at 20-20. Three ties and two lead changes later, it was GW again that scored the crucial final two points to take a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set was all Woodrow Wilson who jumped out to a 13-3 lead en route to a 25-18 win, setting up set five.
George Washington took a quick two-point lead and held that advantage at 10-8 late in the set.
A block from senior Olivia Ziolkowski cut the lead in half, but Woodrow could not get over the hump down the stretch.
Kills by Smith and two from senior Molly Grimm ignited a 4-0 run to put Woodrow on the brink of elimination.
The Flying Eagles would not say die and fought back again within one before a kill from Grimm sealed the win for the Patriots.
“It worked out for us today. I am not sure if it was much different than Saturday. Two evenly matched teams and the ball bounces one way versus another,” Smith said, “We expected a dog fight coming in and that is exactly what happened.”
It was an unfortunate end for a Woodrow team that had returned to the state tournament after replacing six players from last year’s team.
“This is one of the strongest teams that I have had,” an emotional Rhodes said. “The seniors are a great group of seniors. They loved each other and they were just a great team. They fought hard.”