With a burst of energy from singer Kelly Clarkson, the Nation Ford Falcons volleyball team swept the Dorman Cavaliers, 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-21), to advance to the 5A state championship for the second straight season.
Nation Ford (47-5-1), ranked No. 22 in the country, will now face the Lexington Wildcats at 7 p.m. on Saturday at River Bluff High School for the 5A state title.
“It is going to be a really tough match,” Nation Ford head coach Carrie Christian said. “They are going to push us. The game plan is to keep focus. Repeating is harder than winning that first one. We need to make sure we keep our foot on the gas.”
The Falcons sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” at the top of their lungs to a capacity crowd at the Nation Ford gym on Tuesday evening as Dorman was warming up. The energy in the arena was palpable before the match — and it paid off once the match started.
A fast start was critical for the Falcons, as in each of their two previous matches, the Falcons dropped first sets.
“We were glad to win the first set in one of the tougher matches we had in the playoffs,” Christian said. “We came in with the same mindset and game plan, which was to stay aggressive.”
The Falcons jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first set before Dorman realized it was in trouble and took its first timeout of the set. Nation Ford came out of the timeout still hot, still scoring the next three points to go up 15-6. Dorman would rally, scoring four of the next five points, but it still trailed by six at that point.
Nation Ford again started to pull away and went up 20-10 forcing the Cavaliers to take another timeout. The Falcons held serve out of the break and would go on to win the set, 25-14.
The second set continued to be all Nation Ford in the early going as the team jumped out to an 8-4 lead. However, Dorman was able to settle into the match more and battled its way back to tie things up a 11. It would be the first time the entire match that Dorman had tied the contest.
Nation Ford again pulled ahead, and again Dorman would tie it at 14. The two teams would battle back and forth like this as the Falcons struggled to stop the surges of the Cavaliers.
Nation Ford would take a 20-18 lead, and Dorman would call a timeout to come up with a strategy. It didn’t work, though, as the Falcons scored three of the next four points and would eventually take the second set, 25-21.
The third set between the two teams was the battle that most had anticipated, as Dorman went up early and the two teams traded points before Dorman forced a timeout from Nation Ford, leading 13-11. Dorman would pull away some in the third set, but Nation Ford stayed within striking distance. The Falcons tied the set at 18 and then would take a 22-20 lead before Dorman took another, final timeout. Nation Ford would finish things off out of the break, scoring the next two points and putting the Cavaliers down for good.
Christian said making sure her team stayed aggressive was key to beating Dorman.
“We have to have an aggressive mindset from start to finish to beat these really good team,” she said.
Falcons’ senior Sophie Fischer was named prior to the Upper State title game to the Under Armour All-American first team and is one of 24 athletes selected to play in the All-American match Dec. 31 in Orlando. Along with Fischer, senior Emily Lammers was also selected as one of the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Region players.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM