FORT MILL -- The stage was set for the rematch at at Fort Mill High School. The Yellow Jackets had ended Nation Ford's unbeaten streak earlier in the year and they wanted more.
On Senior Night in front of the largest crowd of the season, they took out their cross-town rivals again and set themselves up as the team to beat in the region.
Fort Mill had beaten the Falcons earlier in the season, and they knew they were good enough to do it again. While Nation Ford was once the top team in the region, the Yellow Jackets now own the second seed in the tournament and have transformed their season after a slow start.
"All year we have wanted to beat other teams, but we especially wanted to beat Nation Ford," senior Jessie Ellingson said. "We lost half of our team to them in our ninth-grade year and we know those girls are awesome. We know that we had to beat them and we did. I am very excited."
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She was referring to the transfer of students from Fort Mill after Nation Ford, the district's second high school, opened in 2007.
The Falcons came out like a team on a mission to avenge the earlier loss and took the first game 25-9. The Yellow Jackets started flat and watched as Nation Ford used a 20-6 run to close them out.
"We are not a first game team at all," said Corinne Jones, who along with Ellingson are the lone seniors on the team. "We like to start slow and dig ourselves out of a hole and come back."
Jones and Ellingson were rewarded for their strong play all season and were named to the all-conference team.
Fort Mill head coach Melanie Jaehnen said she had seen the team struggle early in matches all season. She said it takes a while to see which players are playing well, what the other team is trying to do and which lineups will work best for that particular game.
"We are just one of those teams," Jaehnen said. "We are a team that always struggles in the beginning. We were in games earlier in the year, but we have figured out a way to get over the hump."
Ellingson and Jones keyed a comeback in the second game by leading Fort Mill on an 11-2 run while they served back-to-back. The Yellow Jackets easily won the second game 25-14.
The third game appeared to be heading in the same direction as Fort Mill jumped out to a 20-14 lead only to watch as the Falcons tied the score at 22. Jones served out the final two points and the Yellow Jackets earned a 25-22 win in the game.
Fort Mill was able to rally from a 13-10 deficit early in the fourth game and cruise to a 25-20 win in the clinching match. Once again it seemed that every time the Yellow Jackets needed a big play it came from either Jones or Ellingson.
"The senior leadership stepped in and you could see that they wanted it," Jaehnen said. "They came in here today with at least second place in the conference on their minds, and they did it. Now we are in second place all by ourselves."
Jones thought that things were aligned perfectly and just fell into place the way they should.
"This was our last conference game, it was senior night and we were playing our biggest rival. There were just so many things," Jones said. "Our team knew that it would be such a big win and we came out and did it again."
Jones led the Fort Mill attack and again filled up the stat sheet as she has done all season. Jones finished with nine kills, 14 assists, three service aces and a block. Ellingson added two aces and 19 digs.
Allison Rogers chipped in with 11 kills and 18 digs and Lindsey Piedt contributed 26 assists, 11 digs and four service aces.
The Falcons started the match well but were not able to put it together and get the win.
"Fort Mill just keeps their head in the game," said Nation Ford head coach Grete Miller. "They don't let themselves get down. We have the talent and the athletes and know how to play the game, but once our team gets our heads down, they stay down. We need to work on our mental toughness."
Sara Bebeau led the Falcons' attack and recorded two blocks, four service aces and 16 kills. Bebeau had a great all-around match and did her best to keep Nation Ford in the contest. She was named to the all-region team for the season.
Ally Lambert also played well in the loss and had nine kills and three aces. Taylor Holeman added seven kills and two blocks and Morgan Wolf chipped in with 27 assists.
This night, however, belonged to the Yellow Jackets. They solidified their spot in the conference and the region and look forward to hosting a playoff game on Tuesday.
"You could see the emotion was there tonight," said Jaehnen. "It was different than it was when we lost to Northwestern. The emotion we show is the biggest difference when it comes to playing Nation Ford."
Fort Mill is sure that they have improved .
"It takes us a little bit to get going," Ellingson said. "But once we do get going, we are very good."