BY AARON PATTERSON firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — GEORGETOWN —The emotion was real and the celebratory screams were genuine following Armstrong-Potomac senior Rachel Miles’ final kill of the Vermilion County volleyball tournament championship match.
The Trojans finally broke through, defeating the Salt Fork Storm 25-21, 25-22 to secure their first County title since 2001. And making the experience of hoisting this year’s plaque even more special was returning to the championship match after falling short last year to the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils in what would be their last in a run of nine consecutive titles.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Miles said. “Toward the end of the game, I could just feel it. I could feel that we were going to have this championship. Words can’t even describe what it felt like to be a part of it.”
Armstrong-Potomac’s first title in 12 years proved to be worth the wait, and was something the Trojans anticipated could be possible at the beginning of the season. Following last year’s loss, they were determined to have a special season and began working hard during the offseason to make it possible. It all came to fruition on Monday, and served as a bittersweet sendoff for the team’s four seniors.
“We knew coming into this that if we worked hard during the summer — we had workouts every single day,” Miles said. “We worked hard. We worked our way to the top and we knew that this was our goal.”
The Trojans (20-5) trailed for much of the first set until Miles got her first kill of the match to pull Armstrong-Potomac to within 13-12 on a set from Morgan Zindars. The kill was just the spark they needed to jump start a comeback and lead them to the title.
“Rachel really set us off with that one,” Armstrong-Potomac junior Macey Williams said. “It just made us believe that we could get this, that we were going to get this tonight. That’s where it all started.”
Miles finished the match eight kills and a match-high 18 digs, but the win didn't come from a solo performance. Zindars tallied a total of 21 assists, Makenzie Vinson had nine kills, and Abbie Stewart also had 14 digs. But, it was Williams who perhaps flustered the Storm most.
The junior middle recorded a career high 13 blocks in the match, and the Storm couldn't find an answer for her at the net.
“She played really well and our hitters just didn't really adjust well to their blockers,” Salt Fork coach Brent Bowman said. “We’ve got to learn that when they’re blocking, once in a while tip over them, spread them out a little bit, or take some better angles. Too many times we just hit right into the block.”
Salt Fork did, however, get six kills from Emile McFadden, five from Britton Seamon, and three from Jenny Kimbro. Allie Trosper had 12 assists, and Kimbro led the team with seven digs.
Armstrong-Potomac has now won eight of its last nine matches, and now has the confidence it needs to move forward to finish out the season strong and make a postseason run.
“I’m new to area, but I assisted Joni (O’Banion) last year and she got them to the championship last year,” Armstrong-Potomac coach Candy Franzen said. “We had Bismarck last year, and losing to them, this was a huge thing for these seniors to come back in here and prove that they’re in County and they’re in the championship and they’re going to take it this time. It’s a great thing for our program, and hopefully it will just keep building from there.”
The Trojans are scheduled to take on Hoopeston Area tonight before finishing the regular season at home against Bismarck-Henning. Salt Fork will face Bismarck-Henning tonight.