Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Oct. 16 newspaper on Page B4.
BIDWELL — Vinton County had three goals it set out to accomplish this season.
Finish with a winning record, win the TVC and make a deep postseason run.
Well, it can now cross two of those goals off the list after the Vikings defeated River Valley in straight sets 25-18, 25-12, and 25-17 to clinch the outright TVC championship for the first time in school history.
“This means everything to us,” sophomore hitter Lacy Ward said. “We’ve worked so hard to make this happen and not winning even a share of the TVC since 1984 is a huge deal. It’s an exciting feeling to accomplish this.”
Tuesday’s game was completely different from Monday’s four-set loss to South Webster, a game in which the Vikings had 17 aces, but also made 16 serving errors.
Against the Raiders, the Vikings had 15 aces and made just eight serving errors while piling up 40 kills with just seven hitting errors.
“We didn’t come out with momentum against South Webster and we struggled all game,” Vinton County coach Ashley Ervin said. “We played as individuals and not as a team, but it was completely different for this one. Our communication was much better and we played like we were having fun.”
Having already defeated the Raiders in straight sets earlier this season, Vinton County knew what to expect and went on the attack.
Cameron Zinn served up a pair of aces and Ward’s play at the net with a block and a kill put the Vikings ahead 12-7.
Behind kills from Sydney Smith, the Vikings maintained their lead up to 19-12 before the serving errors piled up for a small stretch.
However, the Vikings shook off the mistakes and Zinn came up with a kill to end the first set.
“We started out a little sluggish at first, but slowly picked it up as the first set went along,” Ervin said. “Having only eight serving errors is much better than against South Webster, even though that small stretch at the end of the first set was strange. But we pushed and finished which was the most important thing.”
Smith continued to pile on the kills as she notched four of them in the first eight Viking points to start the second set.
Then Ward took back over and ripped the next three kills to put them ahead 11-6.
“My focus was much better during that stretch,” Ward said. “We were working on regaining the momentum and I was doing my part to help the team out. Our energy was a lot higher which led to better communication among us.”
The Vikings had no problem putting the Raiders away as they used a 12-3 run in the middle of the set to take a 2-0 set lead.
The kills continued to add up for Smith, who finished with 21 on the night while Zinn served up two more aces, getting the Vikings out to a quick 9-4 lead. However, River Valley didn’t go away quietly and responded by cutting the lead later down to 13-12.
“We needed to control the game at our speed and make (River Valley) react to what we were doing,” Ervin said. “That was the biggest thing. We needed to play more aggressive and hit out spots.”
The Vikings created a little more distance behind kills from Smith and Ward at the net, but the Raiders continued to hang around and make things competitive at 20-17.
However, the Raiders ran out of steam and an ace from Zinn, her seven of the game in addition to her 29 assists, followed by the 12th kill of the night from Ward finished off the Raiders and crowned the Vikings champions of the TVC.
“This is such a special moment for this group,” Ervin said. “They’ve put in the work and it’s nice to see them being rewarded this way with an undefeated conference record and the TVC title. It was a great night and great memory that will last forever.”