BRADENTON, FL – The Richard Bland College of William & Mary volleyball team made a bold statement at the FCSAA/NJCAA Region 8 Championship held at the Bradenton Area Convention Center on Friday.
Despite falling to No. 2 nationally ranked Polk Community College (25-16, 25-19, 25-17) and Indian River Community College in five hard-fought sets (25-19, 22-25, 15-25, 25-23, 11-15), RBC showed it plans on being an annual participant in the championship, giving two prominent Florida-based Division I teams all they could handle in an action-packed day of volleyball.
The Statesmen conclude the 2018 season 17-8, one that included a Region X Conference Championship and outstanding play in the NJCAA District 8 Championship.
In the opening match against No. 2 nationally-ranked Polk State, the Statesmen shrugged off first set jitters to battle the Eagles heartedly in the second and third sets. In the decisive last set, RBC kept play close throughout, never falling behind by more than three points until the final margin. The Statesmen were within one point of tying the set twice and were within 18-17 before Polk State reeled off seven straight points.
In the nightcap against Indian River State College, the Statesmen battled back from a 2-1 sets deficit to force a deciding fifth set, and despite holding several one-point leads in the frame, fell 15-11.
In a tightly-contested final set, one that was tied seven times, the Pioneers broke free from a 10-10 deadlock to earn a hard-fought 15-11 victory and advance to Saturday's noon match against Miami Dade Community College.
Down 2-1 heading into the fourth set, the Statesmen played a back-and-forth battle with the Pioneers. The set was tied 12 times, the last coming at 20-20 after RBC had built a four-point lead. Timely kills from Harper Smith helped RBC edge ahead 23-21. Indian River narrowed the score to 24-23 on serve, but Clara Smith nailed a big kill to notch the set, 25-23, and force a deciding fifth set.
An efficient Indian River attack game and swarming defense proved difficult for the Statesmen to overcome in the third set, falling 25-15. The Pioneers held leads of 12-5 and 17-6. The Statesmen tracked down many Indian River attacks in the set, and were able to get within 22-14, but couldn't cut the margin any closer.
The second set was an intense tussle, tied four times before the Pioneers got their attack game going and built a 15-10 lead. Indian River built a 21-14 lead before the Statesmen made a strong comeback, getting within 24-22 behind the serving of Caitlin Stout and defensive play of Evans before dropping a 25-22 decision.
The first set was tied five times early, the last coming at 6-6. Behind the fierce crosscourt attack prowess of Harper Smith, RBC raced out to a 15-10 lead and extended the margin to 20-15 on a Clara Smith kill. Indian River made a late push to draw within 21-18, but RBC earned four of the next five points for the 25-19 victory.