It was a celebration of accomplishment.
With a pair of wins, including a morning sweep of Lynn in the quarterfinals, Donoho, ranked No. 1 in the state, will face Addison, which defeated Gaston in the other semifinal for a shot at its first state title in 21 years today at 1:30 p.m.
“Coming into the second match, after we won this morning, it just gave us the good idea like, ‘Guys we can really do this and we can win’,” senior Katie Swinford said. “And we knew we could. So, when we came in tonight, we said, ‘You know what? This is our year. We’re going to win this. We want it.”’
It was certainly their day.
Donoho (48-9) was simply too much. The Lady Falcons were too tall, too powerful and too talented.
Against Cedar Bluff, Donoho won points however it needed to. Whenever it needed a big kill, key block or simply to out-scramble their opposition, it did so. Time and time again, the Lady Falcons were able to hit the ball where the Lady Tigers weren’t.
“One of the things we’ve worked on is vision on the court, seeing holes and watching for spaces to put the ball in, especially if the blocking is pretty decent. We’ve worked at looking for holes on the court. Sometimes it’s not successful but tonight it was. We caught them not moving in the right direction a lot of the time.”
Rachel Matson led Donoho with nine kills. She also had 10 digs, four aces, two blocks and an assist. Grace Fink had five kills, 19 assists, 12 digs and an ace. Peyton Van Ekris added five kills as well to go along with three aces and a dig, and Swinford contributed with 11 digs, two kills and an ace.
Slay said her team has adopted the motto of “Inch-by-Inch” since the beginning of regional play a couple of weeks ago.
“Throughout the year we’ve gotten to where we are one inch at a time, one game at a time” she explained. “We just used that at regionals. That was seven inches. We’ve been counting off the inches. Now, we’re one inch to go to the goal that we’ve set for ourselves. The journey’s not complete yet.”
Addison, the defending state champion ousted Donoho from the last year’s state tournament in the semifinals. However, the Lady Falcons will enter this year’s showdown with the Lady Bulldogs with an added advantage. They defeated to secure their top-ranking on their way to winning their own Donoho Invitational earlier in the season.
“One thing it did for the girls is take way the Goliath fact that they’ve always had when we beat them,” Slay said. “But we always know that they’re a good team that they’re always going to present challenges. So, we can’t take that for granted but I do think it takes a little bit of the edge off, having beaten them.”
Donoho 3, Lynn 0
Donoho overpowered the Lady Bears, winning 25-14-25-16, 25-13 to advance to the semfinals. It appeared as easy as the final score indicated for the big-hitting, top-ranked Lady Falcons.
Hitters Rachel Matson, Grace Fink and Rachel Matson combined for 25 kills as the Donoho blasted Lynn in three dominating games. Fink had nine kills to go along with nine digs, 18 assists a block. Matson also had nine kills and added 13 digs, four aces and a block. Van Ekris contributed with seven kills, four digs and three aces.
Libero Katie Swinford had 19 digs, three assists and an ace.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.