ALBEMARLE — Even though her team’s undefeated season and hopes of winning the state championship came to a close Saturday night, West Stanly volleyball coach Steffi Dutton says she couldn’t be any prouder of the way her roster performed in the third round of state 2A playoffs.
“They played to the very end, didn’t give up, and it was probably the best blocking I’ve seen from each player in the front row — it was more than what I could have asked for,” Dutton told SCJ on Monday. “Everybody behind the block was stepping up, chasing down balls and literally laying it all out on the floor trying to get whatever they could.”
In a battle between two undefeated squads — the second-seeded Colts (13-1, 9-0 Rocky River 2A) and third-seeded West Wilkes (17-0, 14-0 Mountain Valley 1A/2A) — West Stanly suffered a three-set loss to the Blackhawks with scores of 25-18, 26-24 and 25-15.
The Colts had advanced to the third round of playoffs for the first time in school history, taking down Central Davidson (9-6, 7-2 Central Carolina 2A) in the first round and South Rowan (15-2, 9-0 Central Carolina 2A) in the second round.
Those two playoff wins came on the heels of winning the Rocky River 2A conference regular season championship as well as its tournament championship in a 3-1 victory over Mount Pleasant (9-6, 8-2 Rocky River 2A).
Reflecting on past playoff losses, Dutton says she hasn’t always been pleased with the way her team’s postseasons have ended over the last three years, but Saturday’s loss had a different feeling.
“This was the game that I told them, ‘I’m not mad or disappointed with how anybody played; you gave it your all and stepped up as much as you possibly could,” Dutton said. “(West Wilkes) took advantage of our height, but it wasn’t easy for them to just blow past us. You could even see the looks on our girls’ faces — they were smiling and happy that they left it all out on the floor.”
Dutton, praising the leadership provided by seniors Addie Barbee, Riley Barbee and Madison Kee, said the key to the Colts’ success this season was they didn’t dwell on mistakes and always focused on the next play.
“You face all these different challenges this year: you didn’t have as many games, you have to wear a mask while you’re playing, you have a lot of different lineups,” she said. “Our team did everything that could have been asked of them this season.”