PETTICOAT JUNCTION, S.C. --- The tears showed the pain of defeat, but Silver Bluff went down playing its best match of the season.
The Bulldogs' volleyball team saw its season end with a tough loss to Waccamaw, 3-1, in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs Wednesday evening.
"We gave it our all," Shericka Bates said. "And that's all we can do."
Though Silver Bluff looked doomed after losing the first two sets by small margins, the Bulldogs had actually taken a 9-7 edge in the first when Kierra Bush put down a kill through the Warrior defense. However, the visitors took the lead for good with a 9-2 run behind four kills to make it 16-11 as the Bulldogs never got closer than three points.
Silver Bluff dug itself a 5-1 hole to start the second set before making a mid-set rally to take a 20-18 advantage. Bush, who Silver Bluff coach Kim Kirk called "the spark plug," used her strong service game to help her team score five points in a row.
Jamie Foreman dominated at the net with consecutive kills and later two point wins at the net as the Bulldogs moved to just five points away from tying the match.
But Waccamaw's Loren Hill helped swing the momentum in the second with a pair of late kills as Silver Bluff conceded a handful of free balls.
The Bulldogs rebounded in the third. In a microcosm of the set, Foreman took advantage of an overpass and powered it down as the Bulldogs went up by as much as 21-10.
"We got some good hits and kills, and they played smart," Kirk said. "We could have won any of (the sets)."
The final set was the most closely contested of the night, with neither team getting into a rhythm early as both sides remained hit-or-miss with their serves.
It looked like things would turn after the Warriors won a point on a controversial tip call to go up 22-20, but Taylor Muterspaugh won two key points at the net -- including one on a block -- as Silver Bluff earned set point at 25-24.
It couldn't close, however, as a service error pulled the set even before a Waccamaw kill off the block ended the match.
"We had our ups and downs this season," Kirk said. "But we knew we had a talented team and that this was going to be our year."