West Forsyth’s volleyball team was almost all smiles at the end of Tuesday night.
That’s usually not a look of a team that just fell at the doorstep of the state championship match, as the Wolverines did to Area 5-7A champion Milton, 19-25, 26-24, 17-25, 19-25. But to West, their historic and improbable run as a No. 4 seed to the Final Four was satisfaction enough.
“I’m definitely happy about where we ended up,” Annie Veldhuis said. “No one expected us to be here at all. I think we surprised (Milton), even taking a set.
“I thought I was going to be sad — it would have been so cool to go to the championship, but we made it this far, and it’s the farthest the school’s ever made it. It’s crazy to say that I was part of that.”
The match started much like West’s win over Lassiter on Saturday, with a loss in the opening set. The Wolverines endured a rough start full of mistakes, which led to a 11-3 hole to dig themselves out of. They were never really close to doing that, but West did make the set competitive down the stretch. Eagles outside hitter Devon Bright was a matchup issue for the Wolverines all night.
“She was unbelievable tonight,” West head coach Jake Dickey said. “We didn’t really have an answer. We made a little bit too many mistakes tonight and couldn’t sustain any runs. Credit to them, they did a good job.”
Despite going down 1-0 to start the match, though, West found the resolve that put them in the state semifinals in the first place.
Milton started the second set with an 8-1 run, but the Wolverines stayed within range of the Eagles throughout the set, and with a 6-0 run late in the set, West tied it up at 22-22 before taking their first lead of the match at 24-23. Miscues by Milton, paired with good blocking up front by Brooklyn Clayton, tied the set at 24-24, and after Milton hit the ball out of bounds on the set point, the match was tied 1-1.
“We didn’t get intimidated,” Dickey said. “We play hard all the time.”
Milton never gave up a lead from that point on, even though West made it close at times. The third set saw the Wolverines down six, and in the fourth and deciding set, West closed its deficit to 21-19 before the Eagles rattled off four straight points to secure the win.
Throughout the regular season, the Wolverines were a team that struggled to find consistency. But after the school’s furthest-ever volleyball playoff run, there will be lessons to take into next year, even as five seniors say goodbye.
“It was, ‘Never stop believing in yourself,’” Dickey said. “We were a four seed in the Final Four — that usually doesn’t happen. (We) were able to pull out two really special wins and then battle in this one.
“It’s a good experience for our underclassmen, being in the playoffs, winning in the playoffs. It’s not easy to get here.”