High School Sports

Nation Ford volleyball wins region, looks to repeat as champions in 5A state playoffs

Nation Ford head volleyball coach Carrie Christian admitted that the pressure is there now.

After an unperturbed run to the Region 3-5A title, Nation Ford can’t afford to have any “bad days” from this point forward, Christian said. The Falcons are 44-5-1 on the season and are coming off winning the Wando Invitational, where they dropped only one set in the tournament. According to MaxPreps, the Falcons are ranked 25th in the country — and No. 1 in the state in 5A.

However, Christian said, that doesn’t matter.

“I don’t really put stock in all that stuff,” she said. “We still have to prove ourselves from here on out. We can’t have a bad day now. We have been able to get through having off games or bad days. We don’t get to do that anymore.”

During the Wando tournament, Nation Ford went 8-0-1 during the tournament with the tie going to host Wando, and before that tournament, the team went 6-0 to win the Southern Invitational in Georgia as well.

The only losses on the season for Nation Ford came in the tournaments in Florida, Davidson and Dorman. The only team from within the state that has beaten the Falcons is Dorman, which came in the Dorman tournament. Nation Ford’s other losses have come from teams in Florida, Chicago, Atlanta and North Carolina.

Most recently, the Falcons swept rivals Fort Mill (25-16, 25-17, 25-8) to finish the region undefeated at 8-0. Also, during that run, they didn’t drop a set in any of the eight matches sweeping all of them in three sets.

It is the second time its happened in program history: Nation Ford went through its entire region schedule in 2010 without dropping a set and went on to win the 3A state title that season.

Christian is hopeful history will repeat itself this time around, but she knows her team will be tested.

Last season, Nation Ford had home court advantage throughout most of the playoffs, but this year, that’s different. Nation Ford is guaranteed to only have home court advantage through the first and second rounds of the playoffs; the only road match last year for Nation Ford during the playoffs was the Upper State championship at T.L. Hanna.

“The Upper State is so tough,” Christian said. “In the second round, we are either going to see J.L. Mann or T.L. Hanna, and that is crazy. We are away this year one more match than we were last year and would have to go into two tough environments to play.”

Christian said her team knows there is pressure in trying to repeat as 5A state champions — and that pressure intensifies during the playoffs.

“We try to not talk about the pressure or dwell on it,” she said. “They want it really bad. They are putting pressure on themselves.”

Fort Mill finished with a 2-6 region record in fourth place, and if the Jackets make the playoffs, it would be by an at-large bid.

“We had our ups and downs this season,” said Fort Mill head coach Kelly Jones. “It took us a while to gel as a group. We finished the season stronger than we had started it.”

Mac Banks: mbanks@comporium.net, @MacBanksFM