Cardinal Newman’s volleyball team reached the end of a long road at the Sumter County Civic Center on Saturday.
The Cardinals, top seeds in the SCISA Class 3A Upper State tournament, finished the season 26-6 after losing to Porter-Gaud 25-15, 25-23 in the semifinals.
After losing to First Baptist in the third round, the Cardinals needed to defeat Porter-Gaud twice to advance in the finals of the double-elimination tournament.
“I think the story of that match was the first game; they came out way more aggressive,” Cardinals coach Bob Watson said.
The Cardinals faced a big hole for much of the first game, a disadvantage Watson attributed to a lack of confidence rather than skill.
“They’re a good, aggressive, consistent, confident team. You could feel that coming out, they were more confident than our girls,” said Watson, whose team has finished just shy of the Upper State finals the past three seasons.
“You can’t be down 10 or 12 points to a team like that,” he said. “We fought our way back well, and the second game we played well.”
Cardinal Newman kept it close, but could never get the upper hand.
Late in the second game, the Cyclones notched three consecutive points to take a 20-17 lead. A kill from freshman Peyton McDonald stopped that run, but soon the Cardinals were again three points down.
A Claire Edwards kill and a couple of Porter-Gaud errors moved the score to 23-23, with Cardinals’ libero Maggie Garlick serving. But the Cyclones broke serve with a well-placed block and won the match when a Cardinal Newman block went out of bounds.
“The last play they got it off a block that just happened to fall six inches out of bounds, and you know, that’s where the ball falls sometimes,” Watson said.
He said he hoped his team learned an important lesson from this year’s finish.
“It’s just getting that confidence that (the Cyclones) have. They knew they were going to win. Even when it was 23-23, you could sense they just had the confidence to know that,” Watson said.
The SCISA 3A finals will be played on Tuesday at a location to be determined.
The Cardinals lose four seniors from this year’s squad, and will quickly begin preparing for next season when they hope to travel a much longer road.