Each day, the Kings Mountain volleyball team enters the gym and notices an empty space next to photos reserved for the program’s two state championship teams.
They will now receive the desired upgrade, securing a spot among the previous champions, after defeating Orange 3-2 (25-12, 25-27, 20-25, 25-21, 15-12) in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A volleyball championship on Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum.
The Mountaineers were in a difficult position when they fell behind 2-1 in the match. In order to have a chance at their third program title, they had to win all remaining matches. This was a crucial moment, as they had been eliminated in the fourth round of the playoffs in the past two seasons. They needed to step up and respond differently this time.
The Mountaineers demonstrated their championship-worthy determination in those critical moments, ultimately winning the last two rounds.
Coach Heather Pasour of Kings Mountain praised her team for remaining composed throughout the entire season. She believes they never lost their momentum or gave up during today’s game.
The initial round consisted solely of Kings Mountain, but it did not accurately predict the outcome of the game. Orange started with a 7-4 lead, but the Mountaineers quickly caught up with a 6-0 streak and ultimately won the set 25-12. While the Mountaineers were playing effectively, the Panthers struggled to make successful passes.
However, Orange was able to overcome their nerves in the second set and ultimately won with a score of 27-25. The set point was a grueling back-and-forth between the two teams, lasting 62 seconds and leaving both teams exhausted. In the end, the ball landed on Kings Mountain’s side. The momentum from the end of the second set carried over into the third, as Orange dominated with a score of 25-20.
Orange had successfully executed a knockdown.
However, that was when Kings Mountain rose again from defeat.
In the fourth set, Kings Mountain recovered and won with a score of 25-21, no longer displaying the lasting impact of their previous losses.
Kings Mountain (34-1), ranked third in the 3A West, received a standout performance from top player Meile Songaila in terms of kills and digs. In addition, sophomore setter Camden Pasour played like an additional libero on the court throughout the game.
The title of MVP was awarded to Songalia.
The Mountaineers had previously competed in the state championship twice before, winning in 1998 and 2001. They only experienced one defeat during the season in a three-game tournament against the 2A West regional runner-up, McMichael.
During the season, Kings Mountain won 95 sets out of 101 played, while Orange managed to win two sets out of the six that were lost.
Ava Wilkerson, the 6-foot-4 middle blocker for Orange (27-5), delivered an impressive performance as the second seed in the 3A East. Aubrey Jordan, a fellow sophomore hitter, also contributed strongly. Sayde Porter, a senior libero, maintained her consistent play.
Coach Hope Heverly previously played for the Panthers when they last made it to the state final in 2004, where they came in second place. Leading up to the state championship, the Panthers had a record of 25 wins and only 1 loss after a sluggish start of 2 wins and 3 losses in the first week of the season.
Heverly expressed great pride in the performance of these girls throughout the season. The entire team has put in a tremendous amount of effort. The team’s determination is evident in their ability to overcome the challenges of having a new coach and still work tirelessly. Throughout the night, they consistently displayed the same resilience that has been present all season.
Prior to the competition, a single player from each team was given NCHSAA sportsmanship awards. Ella Wimsatt, a senior from Orange, received the award for her team. Mary Grace Hogue, also a senior, was awarded the honor for Kings Mountain.