The top-seeded Catawba Valley Community College volleyball team is headed back nationals for a third-straight year after winning its ninth-straight Region 10 championship on Friday at the Tarlton Complex.
The Red Hawks (20-2) defeated fourth-seeded Sandhills in the tournament semifinals before earning a hard-fought four-set win against third-seeded Fayetteville Tech in the championship match.
Pogue said Friday’s tournament win was the culmination of a season that has been different and challenging after being moved from the fall to spring.
“Everything we’ve been through this year has been a first, but we knew they had to keep grinding and working,” Pogue said. “No one has worked harder than our players have because I’ve seen the work they’ve put in at practice. Overall, this win was a lot of work, but we’ve got to finish strong at nationals.”
Led by 15 kills from Region 10 Player of the Year Aasia McNeill and a combined season-best 14 aces as a team, Catawba Valley won its semifinal match with Sandhills in straight sets — 25-12, 25-9 and 25-21.
McNeill said Saturday’s tournament victories, especially on her team’s home floor, are the highlight of a very different, but challenging 2020-21 volleyball season at CVCC.
“It’s definitely been a struggle this year,” McNeill said. “After everything we’ve been through this past year, just being able to play on the court that we practice on and that we know made this win even sweeter.”
Saturday’s championship win didn’t come easy. Awaiting CVCC in the Region final was a third-seeded Fayetteville Tech team, which not only knocked off No. 2 Cape Fear in five sets during the second semifinal match Friday, but also took the Red Hawks to a five-set thriller during the regular season.
“They’re competitive, and they don’t let any balls hit the floor,” Pogue said of the Trojans. “You have to earn your points against them. They are super competitive and very well coached.”
Despite falling behind 5-0 in the first game of the final against the Trojans, CVCC rallied to win the opening set, 25-20.
The Red Hawks would win set two 25-16 and put themselves in position to clinch the Region title in three straight, but the Trojans fought back, winning set three, 25-20.
Fayetteville Tech (9-3) would threaten a fifth set, taking a 11-6 lead in set four, but the Red Hawks rallied late. Down 24-22, CVCC won the final four points of the set, coming back once again against the Trojans to take a thrilling 26-24 set victory and clinching the championship.
“It came down to who wanted it more, and I knew my girls wanted it the most,” Pogue said. “They ended up proving it to themselves. That match mirrored this whole year. They’ve been through adversity, and one way or the other they came out on top.”
The Region crown for CVCC is its 13th overall, and the Red Hawks will be making their 10th NJCAA National tournament appearance.
Setter Amber Barker said Friday’s title win is a special one for herself and her teammates.
“We had a lot of our families and friends here,” Barker said. “I know we’ve won it for many years, but being in our home gym it’s definitely more special for me.”
With Friday’s victories, CVCC has now won 195 Region matches in a row (Division I, II and III) and 156 conference matches in a row.
Red Hawk redshirt freshman libero Caitlin Dailey is excited at the opportunity that CVCC has at the national level.
“I think we all want to do a lot better than we did last year,” Dailey said. “I think we had high hopes last year, and we didn’t perform at our level. We’re all very determined as a whole to go up there and prove ourselves.”