Waccamaw's Melaina Moore goes up for a shot against Aynor. The Warriors beat the Blue Jackets to advance to the Lower State final.
Waccamaw's Taylor Foster blocks a shot against Aynor.
By Chris Sokoloski
Before the fifth and deciding game against Aynor on Monday night, Waccamaw High's volleyball team huddled together near the end of the bench - sans coaches.
"They are not better than us," senior Melaina Moore told her teammates. "We are not going to lose."
Moore's teammates didn't let her down, and Waccamaw beat Aynor 3-2 to advance to the Lower State final on Thursday night against Bishop England.
"I feel comfortable that she'll do what needs to be done," Waccamaw coach Jill Schoen said about Moore. "The wins are always because of her because she just gets them fired up."
Bishop England has won 12 straight state titles, and have beaten the Warriors in five straight Lower State finals.
The Lower State final will be Bishop England's 50th match of the season. They've posted 39 wins.
Waccamaw has won 20 of the 25 matches.
The Warriors may have a slight advantage of playing at home, but the Bishops have come to Pawleys Island and ended Waccamaw's season before.
Waccamaw expected a tough match against region rival Aynor, as the Blue Jackets had already taken the Warriors to five games in a match this season.
Aynor took an early lead in game one before Waccamaw rallied to tie it at 4-4. The Warriors extended the lead behind the serving of Mags Grafe and Taylor Foster. Aynor regained the lead, but the Warriors hung around and took the lead at 20-19.
Three kills by Moore in the next seven points gave the Warriors the 25-21 victory.
Waccamaw jumped out to an early lead in game two before Aynor rallied to tie the score at 6-6.
The teams traded points, but when the Blue Jackets took a 13-9 lead, Schoen called a timeout. With Aynor clinging to its lead, Grafe served Waccamaw to within three at 18-15 and Aynor called timeout.
Foster stopped a Blue Jackets' run at 21-16, and served the Warriors to within two points at 21-19. The teams then traded points until the game was tied at 23-23 and 24-24. Aynor got the final two points for the 26-24 victory.
"Whenever we get down that just motivates us to come back harder," Moore said. "It might not work against tougher teams but right now it's working for us."
Neither team could secure more than a three-point advantage in game three until Waccamaw took a 16-12 lead. The Warriors extended it to 17-12, but the Blue Jackets went on a run and tied the game at 18-18, forcing a Waccamaw timeout.
Moore used soft shots over the net to stop two Aynor runs and keep the Warriors within 22-20. Waccamaw then tied the score at 20-20 on Moore's serve.
Aynor was one-point from the victory at 24-23, but Waccamaw tied the score at 24-24, Foster got a kill for 25-24, and Sienna Herndon served the Warriors to the 26-24 victory.
Moore had three kills in the early stages of a close game four, and served Waccamaw to a 9-7 lead.
The game remained tied or within one or two points until Aynor took a 16-13 lead. The Blue Jackets extended it to 17-13 after a Waccamaw timeout, but a soft shot by Moore and Foster's serving got the Warriors to within 17-16.
Kills by Moore stopped two Aynor runs, and she served Waccamaw to a 21-21 tie.
After a timeout, the Blue Jackets held off the Warriors for the 25-22 victory.
After Aynor tied the game at 1-1 in the deciding game, the Warriors scored the next four points and never trailed en route to the 15-8 victory and a date with Bishop England.
"Our team doesn't lose very well so we're going to fight until the very last point," Moore said.
"Playoffs aren't meant to be easy," Schoen said.
Moore had 18 kills in the match and Grafe had seven aces.
Thursday's Lower State final begins at 6 p.m. at Waccamaw High School.
"This year we're much more intense and we're not afraid of anyone," Moore said. "We have nothing to lose so we're just going to give it our all."
"I'm ready to go all the way, I'm ready to win state with these ladies," said Foster, who transferred to Waccamaw at the beginning of the school year. "We've just bonded so great, I'm just ready to go all the way."
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