Second-ranked Lexington breezed by upstart Beaufort Tuesday in the third round of the Class 4A state volleyball playoffs to advance to the Lower State championship match for the second year in a row.
The Wildcats (19-1) dispatched the Eagles 3-0, ending Beaufort’s best-ever post-season run. Lexington had little trouble in winning the first and third games (25-11, 25-10), but the visitors from the Lowcountry pushed the Wildcats before falling 25-21 in the pivotal second game.
Lexington, which has it as far as the fourth round of the playoffs five times since Lee took command in 1996, is still looking to earn its first shot at a state championship.
“We've been here before so this is very familiar territory for us,” said Lee. “Now, the real playoff pressure begins and I’m anxious to see how we react. Breaking though to get to the finals is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but it’s never quite worked out. Now we have another chance.”
Lexington will face school district rival White Knoll on Thursday at home with a ticket to the finals at stake. The Timberwolves created the all-Lexington showdown by upsetting third-ranked Aiken Thursday on the road.
“This is great for Midlands volleyball, great for our region no matter who we play,” said Lee before knowing which team his club would face.
Senior outside hitter Kellie Schmidt was in top form against Beaufort - delivering 16 kills, while also contributing three digs and four serving aces. Senior setter Laura Grace Swindler finished with 29 assists, five digs and two kills.
“Kellie played real well again tonight; I think she’s the best hitter in the state,” said Lee. “Laura Grace makes us go. She really has the knack of putting the ball where it needs to be if she gets a good pass.”
Solid support was forthcoming from Kaitlyn Cobb (seven kills), Aubrey Dooley (three kills, for assists, six digs, three aces), Jennifer Hoppe (four kills, two digs, four aces) and Metta Price (six kills, three digs).
The only drama came in the second game. Beaufort stayed close with strong serving, ringing up seven aces. The Eagles were within 22-20 of the Wildcats before Schmidt restored order with a kill from the back row.
“I really think this is our best shot at getting to the finals,” said Schmidt. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to this point again, but now it really comes down to is keeping our focus and playing our best.”