The Hidden Valley volleyball team entered Saturday’s Class-3 state final riding a 30-game winning streak.
Unfortunately, for the Titans, they couldn’t make it 31.
Playing with tenacity all afternoon at the Salem Civic Center, Hidden Valley rolled out to win the first two sets in the best-of-5-set match, only to watch York rebound in stunning fashion to claim the Class-3 title by scores of 17-25; 23-25; 25-22; 25-22; 15-11.
The win for the Falcons was noted to be the first in York County history.
Hidden Valley knew York would be a challenge at the net with six of the Falcons signing in at 5ft 8″ or taller. None was more dominating than the tandem of senior Ashley Hunt and junior Ramsie Pittman, whose play at the net caused the Titans problems all afternoon. Hunt would finish with 22 kills while Pittman slammed down 16.
But Hidden Valley countered with sophomore sensation Caleigh Ponn, who at 5ft 7″ gave the Falcons all they could handle on her way to a career night with 39 kills and 38 digs that had the raucous civic center crowd screaming for more.
In the opening set York jumped out to a quick 4-point lead before the Titans roared back to knot things at 9. Hidden Valley methodically kept increasing its advantage the rest of the set and won handily by 8 points.
The second set was much closer, but with 5ft10 sophomore Sophie Arnold and Ponn leading the way, the Titans reached set-point at 24-23 before Ponn fired home the decisive set-winning kill. Hidden Valley looked to be on cruise control for win number 31.
Boxed into a corner, York took a 4-point lead in the third set before the points went back and forth into the 20s. York got to set-point at 24-22 and the Titans were called for a net violation that kept the Falcons breathing, still trailing 2-1. The fourth set was similar as York fought to set-point at 24-22 and again scored the set-winner to knot the match at 2-2 and force a first-to-15-points tiebreaker.
York gradually pulled ahead in the second half of the fifth set, and at match-point 14-11, scored to clinch the Class-3 title. Lauren Atwell had 29 digs for York while Morgan Hunter set the Falcon power game with 39 assists.
On the Hidden Valley side, the numbers were equally impressive. Arnold followed Ponn’s record kill performance with 8 of her own, while senior Abby Crosser scorched 7 kills past the Falcon defense. Arnold and sophomore Calli Anderson each fired 4 aces from the service line. Following Ponn’s 38 digs, junior Lauren Whitaker brought up 35, with Anderson and sophomore Camille O’brien saving 20 and 11, respectfully. Anderson set the table for the Titans with 52 assists.
In the interview room after the match Hidden Valley head coach Carla Ponn reflected on the loss while being joined by daughter, Caleigh, and the Titans only senior on the roster, Crosser.
“I’m very proud of my team and we had a very good season. We were undefeated and it’s a hard thing to maintain. (Today) we had a bunch of young kids who had never been in this situation. I felt bad for them because we could have won. I love this group and I love coaching at Hidden Valley.”
Carla Ponn has firmly established herself as one of the most talented and well-respected coaches in the state. With every Titan player other than Crosser expected to return, including Caleigh who passed the 1,000-kill mark late this season as a sophomore, one can clearly expect the road to the state finals will again travel through Southwest Roanoke County.