Lady Blue Flame volleyball team is runner-up in state championship
by Greg Lucas
Despite a heartbreaking loss in the AAAA state championship Saturday in Lexington, Lady Blue Flame Coach Rikki Owens said the future continues to be bright for the Pickens High women’s volleyball team.
“We are blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to coach such amazing young women,” Owens said, noting that this year’s Blue Flame team, in addition to the four stellar seniors, included two juniors, eight sophomores and two freshmen. “The relationships and memories that we have made are well worth the consolation prize! Losing at State does NOT define who we are and how hard we worked the past six months. We won as a team and we lost as a team, and I could not be prouder of OUR TEAM! We are a family.”
The Lady Blue Flame fell to a senior-laden North Myrtle Beach Chiefs’ team in the state championship 19-25, 23-25, 16-25. The match was played on Saturday, Nov. 9 at River Bluff High School in Lexington. The Chiefs returned nine seniors on a team that defeated the Lady Blue Flame for the state championship in 2018.
Pickens advanced to the state championship by defeating nemesis Eastside in a thrilling five-set match, 20-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-17, 15-9. The game was played at Eastside in front of a raucous Eastside student section that was placed front and center in the Taylors gymnasium.
In the deciding fifth set, the Lady Blue Flame jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind the superb serving of senior setter Kaylee Gillespie and timely kills by senior outside hitter Brooklyn Johnson and freshman setter Lauren Dow. Subsequent kills by senior right-side hitter Olivia Dow, Lauren Dow, Johnson, Gillespie and sophomore middle hitter Caroline Lucas sealed the victory.
In the Eastside match, Olivia Dow led all hitters with 14 kills, followed by Johnson and Lauren Dow, tied with nine kills apiece. Olivia Dow led in blocks with nine, followed by Lucas with five. Gillespie was the leader in assists with 27, and Lauren Dow had 16. Sophomore libero Bailee Earnhardt led in digs with 25, followed by sophomore pin hitter Calie Covey with 18.
The Lady Blue Flame finished the year at 26-7 overall, winning their fourth straight Upper State championship.