Call it a state championship sore throat.
After Tamisha Martin’s Westminster Catawba Christian School volleyball team claimed the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) state title Saturday in Raleigh, the coach could be forgiven for sounding a little raspy on Monday afternoon. Martin’s Indians (24-5) rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Durham’s Trinity School (24-2) in the final.
Asked if she did a little screaming over the weekend, Martin said, laughing: “Just a little bit.”
The volleyball championship is Westminster Catawba’s first in any NCISAA tournament, and overshadows some of the disappointment the school’s community felt after having to cancel its football season in August.
That the volleyball state final victory came in the most dramatic of circumstances only sweetened the taste. The Indians fell behind after the first two sets, losing 25-22 and 25-21, before rallying to win the next two, 25-21 and 25-18. That set up a dramatic and decisive fifth, which WCCS claimed 20-18.
“When you get down 2-0,” Martin said, “it’s hard to tell yourself mentally that you can fight back three games straight to win it. But I never felt during that game that we thought we were out of it.”
After the Indians fell behind, Martin said she didn’t even have to talk during the intermission prior to the third set. Her players did the talking.
“The girls just took over and they just said they wanted to win and we got a chance, and they proved it.”
Westminster Catawba, the No. 2 seed in the NCISAA Class AA tournament, beat Caldwell Academy in the second round after a first-round bye, then dropped two-time defending state champs St. David’s School in the third, setting up a final pairing with Trinity School. Westminster Catawba hadn’t played any of the teams in the tournament field before Saturday.
“We just went in there realizing we had to play our game,” said Martin, who is in her first year coaching at the school. “We just knew we had to play the best we could play.”
Martin credited junior libero Julia Scott with consistently getting the Indians into their offense quickly, which helped them avoid blocks at the net.
Emily Oliver, Katie Oliver, Katie Varnadore, Hunter Moxley, Julia Scott, Emma Reister, Grace Wentworth, Janey Bunton, Anna Reece, Sara Beth Jordan and Karsyn Bartruff suited up for the Indians this season. Anna Janavich assisted Martin. Oliver, who led the Indians in kills and hitting percentage, and Moxley, the team’s setter, were named to the NCISAA Class AA volleyball All-State team.
The school celebrated the championship Monday with an eighth-period pep rally.
“We knew we had a great chance, but you still can’t fathom actually winning a championship,” Martin said.
She’ll have a pleasant reminder of that championship in the back of her throat for at least the next couple of days.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T