High School Sports

Wildcats ride to first state finals

The Lexington Wildcats celebrate winning their playoff game against White Knoll. The teams played Thursday for the honor to play in the state championship game Saturday. Lexington won 3-0.
The Lexington Wildcats celebrate winning their playoff game against White Knoll. The teams played Thursday for the honor to play in the state championship game Saturday. Lexington won 3-0.

After spending the season ranked No. 2 in the state, Lexington now has a chance to prove it is the best volleyball team in Class 4A.

The Wildcats advanced to the state finals for the first time in program history with a 3-0 victory against visiting White Knoll Thursday.

"It was a great game, a great win for us for the first time, and both of us deserved to be here tonight," Lexington coach Chee Lee said.

Lexington (22-1) defeated White Knoll 25-23, 25-9, 25-21.

White Knoll put up a big fight in the program's first semifinal appearance.

In the first game, White Knoll rallied from five points back early on to a 14-14 tie with service from Siraya Windsor.

White Knoll held a brief lead as the Wildcats, known for their sound technique, suffered a few defensive breakdowns.

But Lexington never allowed White Knoll to get a run going. The teams traded points until the end, with White Knoll forced to serve against game point.

Lexington was fired up in the second game.

"After they scored that many points in the first game, we said we weren't going to let that happen again," senior Kellie Schmidt said.

Schmidt was a one-woman firing squad at the front corners, with seven of her team-leading 16 kills in the game. The Wildcats posted runs of four, four and five points against a White Knoll team that seemed to have lost its bearings. With her team leading 21-9, Schmidt took over service and delivered four consecutive points, serving up a backline ace for game point.

"She has been consistent all year and it's really hard to do that when other teams are keying on you," Lee said. "I have a lot of respect for (White Knoll's) middles, they did a great job against her. Luckily, our middles came through for us."

Kaitlyn Cobb and Jennifer Hoppe combined for 17 kills, and Laura Grace Swindler posted 36 assists in the Wildcats' effort.

White Knoll refused to be dominated in game three.

The Timberwolves trailed briefly before tying the score at 7 on a four-point run, then taking a 14-8 lead with a six-point run with Anna Butrym in service. Three more kills from Schmidt helped Lexington erase that deficit. Schmidt then dropped back to serve and pushed the Wildcats ahead 20-18.

"We changed up some things and did a few things differently to keep it close, but really it's just a matter of being able to beat Lexington," Nicole Gilstrap said.

Lexington defeated White Knoll twice on the way to an undefeated Region 5 championship.

As the No. 3 seed out of the region, White Knoll pushed through three rounds on the road, outlasting West Ashley and Aiken in five game matches to earn the chance to face Lexington one more time.

"Overall, I am just completely proud of them," Gilstrap said. "They are an amazing group of girls."

Briana Wise was a force for the Timberwolves on the front, leading the team with eight kills. Sarah Barton posted 22 assists and Sarah Windsor and Butrym each put up six digs for the Timberwolves' defense.

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