Chapin withstood a spirited rally by Chapman on Monday, winning 3-2 in the third round of the Class 3A volleyball playoffs.
The Eagles advance to the Upper State championship on Wednesday against either Pickens or River Bluff.
“We’re looking forward to having the chance to get to the state championship match,” said coach Mary Jo Jenny, who guided the Eagles to their previous state championship in 1999, when the school was in 2A.
“If we go to Pickens,” Jenny said, “we’ll be motivated because we feel we left something up there in the loss in the Upper State finals last year. If it’s River Bluff, we get a chance to host the Upper State championship for the first time in ages.
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“Either way, we’ll be playing to win.”
Chapin (23-1) won the first two games but couldn’t put away Chapman until a 15-9 decision in the decisive fifth game.
“We knew Chapman was a great team, but not an overpowering one,” Jenny said. “We expected them to tip us to death, and they did in the third and fourth games. But we were able to cover and take advantage in the fifth game like we did in the first two.”
Chapman’s attack produced six kills in Chapin’s 25-14 win in the first game. The Eagles had a tougher time in the second but prevailed 25-22 with Brooke Clifton tallying nine kills.
The Panthers made things interesting with 26-24 and 25-19 wins in the third and fourth games to push the match to the limit. Setter Deanna Unger was the catalyst with nine assists, three kills and three aces during the move.
Chapin settled down in the fifth game. Clifton had four kills, setter Katie Lass had five assists and Jasmine Flowers and Megan Jefferson each had one ace.
“I asked my veteran players before the fifth game if this is where they wanted their season and careers to end,” Jenny said. “I have one five-year player and three four-year players, and they played like a veteran team when it mattered the most.”
Clifton was the most consistent Chapin hitter, ringing up a match-high 20 kills, and the senior middle hitter had plenty of support. Flowers, another senior middle hitter, contributed seven kills and three blocks.
Setters Lass and Jefferson combined for 47 assists. Lass also had four aces and two kills. Outside hitters Becca Barton and Kathryn Hughes tallied nine and seven kills, respectively.
Hughes, who missed part of the season with an injury, also had three blocks.
It was the third straight five-game playoff match for the Panthers.
“We’re a bunch of fighters who never say die,” Chapman coach Jennifer Allen said, “But tonight we just couldn’t finish.”