Story and Photo by Matthew Yoder
The volume of a spirited rivalry reverberated through the packed gym.
The intensity on the court helped supply it. Chincoteague took a commanding two-set lead but only just managed to hold on to defeat Arcadia in girls volleyball action Tuesday night.
“That’s what we do, make things interesting,” said Chincoteague coach Jimmy Bloxom.
They did just that. The Ponies gave the impression that this match would be a runaway by handedly outworking Arcadia in the first two sets, winning them 25-13 and 25-12 respectively.
To their credit the Firebirds, who started two freshmen, never backed down. They took a 9-4 lead in the third set behind a determined spike by Haley McDaniel. The Ponies called a timeout but they continued to press too hard in the frame and went on to lose the set 25-19.
Both sides of the stands spent the night attempting to out-vocalize one another in support of their teams and Arcadia began to feed off the energy of their contingent.
Arcadia’s players were smiling and really believing in themselves, while Chincoteague’s players looked rattled and uncharacteristically out of position from their dominating play earlier in the game. A late rally in the set by the Ponies could not slow the inspired play of Emani Press, and this match was fated for a deciding fifth set.
Arcadia entered the gym for the fifth set exuberant, while Chincoteague’s players looked a bit shocked and tense. Miscues on Arcadia’s serve and strong play at the net by Chincoteague’s Caroline Shelley helped fuel a rebound for the Ponies, and a well-fought victory, taking the set 15-9.
Shelley was particularly able at the net all night for the Ponies. Through the ups and downs she appeared particularly poised and focused.
“I never get mad,” Shelley said. “I just keep it together, it’s the only way.”
There was plenty of praise to go around following such a captivating, action- filled night.
Arcadia’s coach Anna Williams was really proud of her team’s effort.
“They fight really hard,” said Williams.
While Bloxom believes his team often lets opponents back into matches, on the flip side Williams said her girls are slow starters.
The night then seemed tailor-made to go long, but Williams credits the effort of her players in practice to perform well in longer matches.
“They work hard in practice and condition for it,” said Williams.
Bloxom looked relieved following the contest. Setting such a commanding early lead it seemed as though he sensed the tide would turn and the lead would be needed to secure victory.
Against Arcadia he said, “We throw records out, Arcadia showed fight, hats off to them.”
Hats off to everyone on this night, players and fans alike, for bringing the intensity.