LEXINGTON, S.C. — They stood in a line, shoulder to shoulder with medals around their necks, and smiled.
They didn’t get the trophy ,medals or even finish they dreamed about, but the pain – and any tears – didn’t last too long for Aiken.
Playing in the Class AAAA state volleyball final for the third year in a row, the Hornets lost to Hillcrest, 3-1 (25-23, 14-25, 25-14, 25-20) on Saturday night at White Knoll High School. The Hornets, the 2010 state champions, have lost to Hillcrest in the final in back-to-back seasons.
“I told them there’s nothing to hang their heads about,” Hornets coach Malynda Young said. “I was proud of them. They’ve done some fantastic things.”
After falling to Hillcrest in five sets a year ago, Aiken returned for a rematch but fell short because of a strong Hillcrest attack.
The Rams raced out to an 8-2 edge in the opening set, and though the Hornets stormed back to take a 14-12 lead, Maddie Palmer and Hillcrest took over the set.
The Rams took sizable leads in the middle of the third and fourth sets to win the match. In the final set, Sydney Moseley and her tip game, which gave Aiken fits most of the evening – handed Hillcrest a 16-13 lead. Aiken’s Anna Tovo recorded a kill to cut the Rams lead to 21-19, but Palmer took over again to ensure her team would win its second state crown in as many seasons.
Aiken grabbed its only set victory in the second, with Natasha Dicks leading the way.
Dicks, a senior, was a force, getting several kills as the Hornets went on 8-0 and 7-1 runs to control the set.
When the Rams’ block went up – the Rams often knew the ball was going to Dicks – Dicks still powered in a kill. She scored seven of Aiken’s last eight points in the set and had a team-best 19 kills in the match.
“I was like, ‘Forget it, I’m swinging,’ ” Dicks said of seeing the blockers go up. “It was adrenaline. I just kept swinging.”
That set was the high point for the match for Aiken. Though the season ended with a loss, the Hornets have been one of the last two teams standing in each of the past three years.
“The whole season, it was perfect,” Dicks said. “It was a perfect senior year.”