EAST BEND — Cinderella’s ride through the 2A volleyball state playoffs came to an abrupt end Saturday.
Third-seeded Forbush upset three higher seeds to reach the Elite 8, where it met heavyweight Lake Norman Charter (21-2) on the road in Huntersville.
The Lady Falcons gave the Knights all they wanted in the fourth round but couldn’t pull out another surprising victory, falling 3-1, seeing an end to their remarkable run in the Western Region Semifinals.
“It was truly a magical week for our team,” Head Coach Angie Funk explained. “They had a great time and all of their hard work since that first day of tryouts back in August paid off.
“The girls never thought of themselves as the underdog — we were in it to win,” she continued. “With that mindset, I knew the girls were capable of great things.”
After finishing the regular season with an 11-11 mark, the Falcons finished third in the Western Piedmont Conference behind defending 2A state champion North Surry and West Stokes.
But in the end, Forbush was the last team standing from the league.
“About a month ago we came together to set mid-season goals — both individual and team. One of those team goals was to do what it took to make the playoffs,” Funk said. “The girls not only met that goal, but soared well past it.
“I knew all along that this team had the potential to be great,” she added. “During the playoffs, they had heart and a passion for the game. We mixed that in with their talent and peaking at the right time and there you have it — top eight in the state.”
The Falcons knocked off Rocky River Conference champion Mount Pleasant, 3-1, to open the postseason before topping former Mountain Valley Conference foe North Wilkes in round two, 3-1.
The shining moment of the surprising run came in the third round against league rival West Stokes in King.
After losing both regular-season match-ups with the Wildcats, Forbush got its revenge, sweeping its way to the Elite 8, 25-22, 25-19, 25-22.
Waiting in the region semis was Big South Conference champ Lake Norman Charter, who knocked off North Surry in five games the round before.
On paper, the Falcons should not have even been in the same gym, but Funk said that her team “deserved to be there.”
“Before the match, I told them that the ‘memo’ that said we should not be there had been ripped up. They deserved to be there. They worked hard and earned it,” she said.
Forbush stunned Lake Norman Charter in the opening game, winning 25-23 to grab a 1-0 overall lead early. But the Knights rebounded and won three straight sets to end the Falcons’ unbelievable season.
“Yes, I am disappointed that we did not win, but I am so very proud of not only their play during the playoffs,” Funk explained. “I am also proud of their teamwork and desire to win.”
Powering the Falcons during the playoffs was a strong teamwork factor with “no single player making all the plays.”
Makenzie Dudley paced the team in kills, slamming home 49 points during the four games, including a game-high 17 against Mount Pleasant. Jessica Funk and Anna Harris added 46 and 38 kills, respectively.
Meredith Boles led the way along the front line with 25 total blocks with a game-high 12 against North Wilkes. She posted a team-high six against Lake Norman Charter, while Michaela Allred added five in the match and 16 total.
Mallory Choplin tallied an impressive 99 digs in the four games, including 31 against the Knights and 22 against West Stokes. Dudley and Harris added 71 and 58 digs to their respective statlines.
Harris recorded 14 service aces in the postseason with a team-high seven against Lake Norman Charter. Funk posted 11 aces overall.
“As you can see one of our strengths this year has been teamwork,” Funk explained. “No single person made all the plays - it took all of us.”
With the season-ending defeat less than a week behind them, Funk said she’s already eager to get back to practice next year.
“I’m ready to get started for next year,” she said. “To go this far in the state playoffs leaves you with that hunger for more. I want this to drive the girls to work hard to set the bar even higher for next year.”
Next year, the Falcons will undoubtedly shed the Cinderella image and be a force in the 2A volleyball landscape.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.