The fans packed into the gym at White Knoll High School were served a treat in the Class AAAA volleyball state championship match.
Unfortunately for the contingency that traveled south to support the Bearcats, the treat didn't taste so good as Rock Hill dropped a heartbreaking five-set thriller to Aiken.
"I'm extremely proud of (this team)," said Rock Hill coach Cindy Elder. "I mean, look at the stands. How many times have you seen girl's volleyball pack a gym?
"These kids, they worked as hard as they could. I don't think we played our best tonight, but we didn't play bad. Aiken just played very good and they deserved it. They out hustled us. They out dug us. They're a very good team and probably the best team we've seen all year and that's fitting that the two best teams were in the state championship."
With Rock Hill leading the match two games to one, Aiken won the fourth game 25-19 to force a decisive fifth set--a race to 15 points with the victor claiming its first-ever volleyball state championship.
Aiken (35-1) opened the first set like they'd been there before, while Rock Hill was a bit surprised at the magnitude of the environment. With the game tied at 8-all, Aiken exploded on a 10-1 scoring spurt to take a commanding advantage. They went on to take game one 25-13.
The Bearcats settled down in the second game and three straight Christina Vereb kills helped Rock Hill close out game two, 25-22, to level the match.
Rock Hill took an 8-6 edge early in game three and managed to fend off the Green Hornets' late rally.
Karis Watson had a kill to setup set point for Rock Hill, but Aiken countered with two points to narrow the Bearcats lead to 24-22. Rock Hill won 25-22 after Aiken was whistled for net interference.
The Bearcats had an opportunity to close out the match after tying game 4 at 18 after Watson and Anna Greeley combined on a block. Aiken then outscored the Bearcats 7-1 to win the game and set up the fifth set.
The Green Hornets struck first in the final game and led 9-5 before Rock Hill inched its way back to draw within one, 9-8.
But two unforced errors by the Bearcats and a kill by Meredith Clemmens extended Aiken's lead to 12-8 and Rock Hill could never recover.
Aiken went on to win the decisive game 15-12.
"Both teams played an excellent match," Elder said.
"Defensively, they outplayed us. We got our touches on the ball but couldn't get them to the targets. However, all (Aiken's) digs and passes were right on target and that makes it a lot easier on your hitters."
Rock Hill finished the season with 37 wins, the most in school history.