McARTHUR — Over the past four years, Vinton County has played a ton of great games that have created some memorable moments.
However, it saved its best possible performance for its biggest game to date to make another lasting impression.
The Vikings played in their third-straight district semifinal, but this time came out on the winning side with an overwhelming straight set victory over Logan Elm 25-21, 25-11 and 25-13 on Tuesday.
“We were going to leave everything out on the floor because this is also the last time for us seniors that we’re playing on our home court,” Vinton County’s Sydney Smith said. “We had to give it everything we had, and it’s nice to finally be able to say that we’re going to a district final.”
“This is one of the best feelings ever,” Vinton County’s Zoey Kiefer said. “We’ve been stuck in the district semifinal for the past two seasons, so to finally get over that hump feels so good.”
This was a statement game all around to show the Vikings are ready for their moment to play for that elusive district plaque.
The win also set a new school record for wins in a season with the Vikings now sitting at 23-1.
“We definitely showed our heart and it was easy to see that the girls really wanted it,” Vinton County coach Ashley Ervin said. “You could see our nerves in the beginning, but they fought back on every single point and just kept the momentum the rest of the night.”
The game started off with a bang on the first point that saw a rally which seemed to last for five minutes before a violation on Vinton County gave Logan Elm the point.
That set the tone for the rest of the first set which featured nine ties and three lead changes before a serving error put Vinton County ahead 18-17.
“Logan Elm kept a lot of balls alive, much more than we’ve seen this year, but we just kept hitting and coming at them,” Ervin said. “We made them react to us instead of the opposite happening.”
Logan Elm committed a number of hitting errors while kills from Kiefer, Smith and Lacy Ward alongside a fortunate roll for Jordyn Zinn’s only kill of the night propelled the Vikings to a first-set win.
Tied 4-4 in the second set, Smith took matters into her owns hands and registered three kills and a block as part of a 6-1 run to push the Vikings ahead 10-5.
“All day today I was watching film on computer of Logan Elm and just seeing where the holes in their defense was,” Smith said. “I knew how important this game was, so I wanted to be as prepared as possible and just remember those details during the game.”
Logan Elm managed to trim the lead down to 12-9, and that’s when the Vikings hit another gear that the Braves simply couldn’t keep up with.
Behind kills from Smith, Kiefer and Ward, the Vikings ended the set on a 13-2 run to seize all momentum heading into the third set.
“Logan Elm had some pretty good blockers, so I was just trying to hit around them and look for the open spot,” Kiefer said. “Sometimes there’s tips, but if there’s a spot, I’m going for the kill.”
Not letting their foot off the gas, back-to-back kills from Smith and Cameron Zinn put the Vikings up 6-4. Logan Elm later cut the lead down to 8-7, and that was as close as it got for the rest of the night.
A kill and block from Kiefer, two kills from Cameron Zinn followed by back-to-back aces from Kerrigan Ward added up to a 7-0 run for a 15-7 lead.
Sensing a victory was on the horizon, Taylor Houdashedlt went back to the serving with a 17-9 lead and proceeded to rip four aces with a Jordyn Zinn kill sandwiched between them to seal the envelope on a Viking victory.
Smith finished with 16 kills and 12 digs, followed by Cameron Zinn with 24 assists, 17 digs and seven kills.
Kiefer and Lacy Ward added seven kills a piece, while Kerrigan Ward had 20 digs and a pair of aces.
Vinton County advances to a Division II district final at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Southeastern High School against top-seeded Sheridan.
The Generals bested the Vikings last season in a district semifinal, but Smith believes they are ready and more prepared for this moment.
“Last year was a really huge game for us, but I think we hyped it up in our heads too much and we played very timid, which showed,” Smith said. “We weren’t the team we actually are that night, but we’re ready to get our revenge.”