Ponies Recover and Grab Title

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The Chincoteague Ponies celebrate their first district championship in 33 years. Photo by Matthew Yoder.

By Matthew Yoder

It was senior night, breast cancer awareness night, and oh, yes, a district title was up for grabs, a title that has eluded the Chincoteague Ponies for 33 years.

Chincoteague’s JV squad had just finished a lively three-set match with Nandua, in which the Ponies failed to complete a perfect season, but parted nonetheless as district champions. The stage was set for the varsity Ponies.

The air of the building had the strong feel of a coronation. The gym was dressed in pink all over, signs to honor Chincoteague’s seniors dressed the walls, and each one of those seniors entered to a biographical journey of their time at school and days yet to come.

They entered with a district trophy just beyond their left shoulders and thanked their coaches and teammates for the fun ride that volleyball has given to them. Chincoteague equally acknowledged Nandua’s senior athletes, and the business of solving a district championship was at hand.

Nandua’s name was prominent on the trophy’s near and distant past, but the Ponies left no impression that any team would stand in the way of Chincoteague being engraved beside 2019.

Chincoteague opened the first set with a 5-0 lead, and though Nandua slowly crept their way closer, the Ponies received timely serve proficiency from Alanna Hall and strong play at the net from Caroline Shelley. Allie Bell made a finesse pass for a kill late in the set for the Ponies, and Lindsey O’Shea, newly inserted from the JV squad, surprised herself with a great kill to secure a match point. Chincoteague delivered with a 25-16 win in the set, and gave the Pony Pen much to be excited about.

Nandua came out more aggressive in the second frame, but the breaks all seemed to go Chincoteague’s way. Even when the dominant Emma Jackson was stopped at the net, the Ponies still managed to set the pace on long rallies. Jackson was never frustrated into relenting and only asserted herself more with both power and finesse. With cardboard cutouts of their girls faces waving proudly, Chincoteague’s fans roared with tremendous energy, helping to fuel a second set victory, 25-18.

Chincoteague coach Sarah Sharpley spoke highly of the crowd’s encouraging enthusiasm.

“It was a huge difference, they are very supportive and we appreciate them,” said Sharpley.

The third set was merely a formality. On this night, with this crowd and so much on the line, the Ponies were determined to erase 33 years of coming up short. They again built an early lead and played smart throughout the set. They came in as a team on a mission and got support from everyone on the night. Seniors such as Maxine Fernandez, Delilah Flores, Alanna Hall, Emily Kaminski, Taylee Thomas and Kyla McClain all handled themselves well as student athletes and contributed in one way or another to the reality of a district championship for the Chincoteague Ponies. The third set ended with a score of 25-16 and segued to deafening applause and a well-earned celebration.

Chincoteague senior Delilah Flores is honored by coaches.
Photo by Matthew Yoder.

Senior Flores spoke with an infectious smile and glimmering attitude. “It’s absolutely amazing, the best feeling I’ve ever had in volleyball,” Flores said. “We took it away from them, this is our year.”

She left no doubt of the bond she feels with her teammates and coaches. “They are my second family,” said Flores.

Family was everywhere on the evening. In the stands, Lisa Hall was engaged throughout, cheering on her daughter, Alanna. “It’s a big game when your daughter’s a senior, I think we got in Nandua’s head,” Hall said.

Along with fan support, Chincoteague’s coaches also gave credence to the readiness of their team.

“They were prepared, mentally and physically,” said Sharpley.

Chincoteague’s athletic director, Jimmy Bloxom, was ecstatic both for the now and the future of the program at Chincoteague.

“We’ve still got great talent moving forward,” said Bloxom.

He sees the rest now in waiting for the playoffs as both a blessing and a curse. “Right now we’re on a roll, but I think we need to break ‘em down and let ‘em chill,” said Bloxom.

The Ponies earned everything they fought for this season and now they wait to see how playoff scenarios develop moving into November.

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