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Resilient Lady Vols net IV-AA crown

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By Robert Howey

Determined Andrew Jackson won a seesaw volleyball battle, lifting the Lady Volunteers to the Conference IV-AA championship in a 3-2 win over county foe Indian Land on Tuesday night in the Lancaster High School gym.

The Lady Vols’ title, their first since the 2002 season, came in a special play-off with the Lady Warriors. The two teams split in a pair of regular-season region matches.

Matters were nearly the same Tuesday in a back-and-forth match which went to the decisive fifth game.

The Lady Vols, who dropped the opening game of the best-of-five set, rallied for a pair of wins before Indian Land tied it up to force the fifth game.

In that contest, there were four ties, the last at 10-all, but the Lady Vols then reeled off three straight points to post a 13-10 edge.

IL, not to be denied charged to slice the gap, 13-12, but the AJ girls responded with two straight points to notch the title-clinching win.

“I’m really proud of these girls,” AJ first-year coach John Verdugo said. “They didn’t give up and never got down.

“They stayed positive and kept their self-confidence. They believed in themselves. It was a real test and we responded.”

Indian Land opened play, taking a 25-21 win, but the Lady Vols came right back to prevail in a 25-6 victory.

“That win made a huge difference,” Verdugo said. “We came back and put the hammer down. We came right back with a huge win.”

The 13-6 Lady Vols, in the second game, shot to a 20-5 spread in taking the 21-point win.

The emotional win before a vocal throng of orange-clad AJ fans keyed the Lady Vols to a 25-17 victory in game three for a 2-1 edge. The Lady Vols opened on a 10-1 surge to take control.

Indian Land didn’t wilt and came back for a 25-22 win to force the fifth game.

Verdugo said it was a true team win.

“We needed every single person and they had a role and fulfilled it,” he said. “All of our girls were into the match and did what they needed to do. It was from the starters on the floor to the girls on the bench giving vocal support of their teammates.”

Indian Land coach Tamara Jacobus lauded the Lady Vols’ game effort.

“AJ played smart and they were much more consistent on their serves which is a big key in volleyball,” Jacobus said. “They played a great, strategic game.”

Jacobus also lauded the AJ fans.

“I wish we had the fans they did,” he said. “This was a neutral site, but their fans made it a home court for them. Volleyball is a game of momentum and that made a difference.

“I do appreciate the few who did make it to support us,” she said.

AJ, with the crown and a No. 5 ranking in the latest Class AA state poll, hosts Strom Thurmond, the No. 4 seed out of Region III-AA on Monday at 6 p.m.

Indian Land, as the IV-AA runner-up, hosts III-AA No. 3 seed Columbia on Monday at 6 p.m.

Conference III-AA champ Keenan hosts Cheraw and Central of Pageland, IV-AA No. 3, visits III-AA No. 2 Gilbert.

 Winners advance to second-round play on Wednesday at 6 p.m.