Two all-Midlands state volleyball playoff matches headline the area sports scene on Monday.
Defending state runner-up Keenan travels to Gilbert for a 6:30 p.m. Class 2A Upper State semifinals showdown. The Raiders stand at 18-8 overall, while the Indians are 18-0 in non-tournament outings. Keenan’s star is senior all-state hitter Bianca Rouse. The balanced Tribe features junior Sarah Eargle, sophomore Whitney Strother and junior setter Courtney Frye.
Keenan rolled to the Upper State title last season before falling to imperious Bishop England in the 2A title bout. The Raiders’ one state championship came in 1992 at the 3A level under coach Van McCloud. Gilbert will be looking to advance to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Indians were a dominant bunch in the 1990s under coach Jan Flynn, claiming 2A state honors in 1997 and 1999 and finishing second in 1990 and 1999. Gilbert first reached the state finals in 1988 when current Irmo coach Sandra Dickert was in charge.
Meanwhile, traditional Midlands powers Brookland-Cayce and Camden square off in the Class 3A Lower State semifinals. B-C advanced with a shocking second-round upset of Myrtle Beach, while the host Bulldogs sent defending 3A state champion Bluffton packing with a hair-raising 3-2 win in the second round.
The Bearcats of coach Beth Cleland have turned a rebuilding situation into a triumphant playoff showing, thanks in part to the efforts of senior setter MacKenzie Cleland, junior middle blocker Alley Greer, senior outside hitter Kristen Hutchins, junior outside hitter Alex White and freshman middle blocker Ebony McBride.
Camden is unbeaten in non-tournament matches and stands at 20-2 overall. The senior-dominated Bulldogs are a deep team with a 10-player regular rotation at veteran coach Paige Wilson’s disposal. Senior outside hitter Melissa Kearse and middle blocker Kristen Hutto are key Camden players, but balanced contribution is what makes the Bulldogs go.
Camden hasn’t won a state championship since enjoying a three-year 3A reign (1993-95) under Wilson. In the interim, the Bulldogs have secured four Lower State championships (1996, 1997, 2001, 2002).
Brookland-Cayce’s run of greatness began in 1997. Over the past 12 seasons, the Bearcats have never failed to reach at least the third round of the playoffs, advanced at least to the fourth round nine times, won a state championship in 2003 and were state runner-ups in 2006, 2004, 1999 and 1998.
The Bulldogs and Bearcats last met three times in high stakes playoff matches through the years. Camden topped B-C in the Lower State finals in 2002 and defeated the Bearcats in the third round in 2001. Brookland-Cayce prevailed in the 1998 Lower State championship match.