Rock Hill, the state's top-ranked volleyball team, has never been beyond the third round of the playoffs. The Bearcats can do that with a win, at home, at 6 tonight against Dorman.
Rock Hill, 35-1, has been ranked in the top 10 all season. They beat the Cavaliers in Spartanburg on Sept. 27 in straight sets. Bearcats' coach Cindy Elder thinks today's match will be much tighter.
"Dorman is a strong team. I think they took us a little lightly," Elder said Monday afternoon. "They are a better team than the way they played against us. They serve tough and pass well. We overpowered them at the net last time we played them."
That is Rock Hill's game; offense. With a pair of Division I recruits at the net, the Bearcats can get it done on offense.
Seniors Christina Vereb and Karis Watson are headed to South Carolina and Clemson, respectively. They have paced the Bearcats attack all year.
Rock Hill won Region 3-AAAA to earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Bearcats beat Mauldin, 3-0, in the first round and then defeated Boiling Springs, 3-2, on Thursday night.
Dorman, the second-place team out of Region 2-AAAA, beat Westside and Spring Valley last week. The Cavaliers won the state title last year, their 11th championship overall. They have played in 13 championship matches in the last 20 years for coach Paula Kirkland.
Region 2 has traditionally produced the best teams the Palmetto State has to offer. A total of 14 of the last 20 state champions have come out of that region.
Rock Hill is well aware of Dorman's championships and the tough competition Region 2 has to offer.
"These kids are pretty savvy," Elder said. "They go on the web and they know the history of Dorman and Region 2 teams. The region is so strong. The teams are battle-tough."
Four of the last five state champions have come from Region 2. The region has three of the four quarterfinal participants and could have had them all if Rock Hill had fallen to Boiling Springs.
"The competition within our Region is exceptional and does go a long way toward preparing your team for intense matches," Dorman coach Paula Kirkland said.
Elder said the team played "a little reserved at times" against Boiling Springs but likes their chances against Dorman as long as they can maintain composure. The coach is looking for her eight seniors with their playoff experience to get three wins and a state title this week.
"I think it will be an exciting match," Elder said. "Rock Hill is more offensive. Dorman is more defensive. If we can serve well and get out of serve-receive quickly, we should be in good shape."
"In this match-up I would say that is a fair statement," Kirkland said. "We are small by comparison, physically, so we have to be ready and able to keep the ball in play versus their hitters until we can make an offensive play."
Elder knew this was going to be a special year for Rock Hill. She assembled a schedule to challenge her team with games against the top programs from across the state. The Bearcats won a big tournament at Wando High School and another at Northwestern.
Rock Hill's only loss came against Nation Ford in what Elder called the toughest match of the season.
Region 2 is always the region to beat. Rock Hill cannot look past Dorman tonight where a win will put them in the Upper State Championship match, at home, on Thursday. That match could be against Hillcrest, the Region 2 team that has ended the Bearcats season three consecutive years.
The Class AAAA State Finals will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at White Knoll High School in Lexington.
Last year Rock Hill seemed to have beaten Hillcrest in the fifth set until a call was overturned. Hillcrest regrouped and went on to win. It was a controversial call and one that Rock Hill hasn't forgotten.
Karl Lyles 803-329-4032