Hiwassee Dam rolls to tournament title
Nantahala – It was exactly the outcome Hiwassee Dam had hoped for.
The Lady Eagles (17-6, 6-0) gained another shot of momentum ahead of the start of the postseason by winning the Little Smoky Mountain Conference tournament Oct. 17 at Nantahala, sweeping division foe Highlands (8-16, 4-2) in a 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 victory.
“This feels great. They’ve worked really hard and I’m proud of them,” said head coach Angie Davis of her Lady Eagles. “You have to compete when you play Highlands, but the girls were pumped up and ready to go.
“It’s a big confidence booster to sweep the conference and win the tournament. It feels really good to come that far. To go into the playoffs, where we’re at, is a good place to be.”
Hiwassee Dam had to play its best against the Lady Highlanders, but still dictated the pace of the match regardless. Kaylee Cornelius delivered some tough serves to open set one, which allowed the Lady Eagles to quickly open a 4-0 lead. But Highlands continued to battle, cutting the deficit to 14-12 when Abby Olvera stepped to the serving line.
Cornelius again came through to widen Hiwassee Dam’s advantage and combined with some keen court awareness from the Lady Eagles down the stretch, helped propel Hiwassee Dam to a set one win.
Highlands stopped talking on the court midway through set two, leading to a litany of mental errors that allowed the Lady Eagles to build an 11-6 advantage. Thanks to some dominating net work from Jaylan Hamby and Erika Sena, Hiwassee Dam stayed one step ahead and clinched the set.
Destiny Sneed had a lengthy serving streak early in set three, widening the Lady Eagles’ lead from 4-4 to 11-4. But the Lady Highlanders refused to go down without a fight, attempting to rally from a 24-13 hole before ultimately coming up short.
“This feels amazing,” said Hiwassee Dam senior Izzy Malinowski. “We worked really well together as a team. We were pumped up in the locker room and ready to come out here, do our job and take home the trophy.”
Malinowski finished the match with three aces, three kills and two digs. Sneed had two aces, one kill and one dig, while Sena added two aces, five kills and one dig. Hamby’s seven kills and two blocks kept the Lady Highlanders off-balance on both sides of the ball.
Thanks to their strong season, the Lady Eagles were awarded a No. 9 seed in the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s postseason. Hiwassee Dam fell to Elkin (No. 24 seed, 7-11) in a first-round match after Tuesday’s press deadline.
In what has to be considered an upset, the JV Lady Eagles (9-9) dropped the tournament final to Highlands: 19-25, 11-25.
Rylie Payne had one ace and one block against the Lady Highlanders. Tiffany Raper and Sydney Payne each recorded two kills, while Natalie Nicholson, Payton Palmer and Lauren Brooks posted one kill apiece.