By Brennan Waldorf
The Division I Region A volleyball championship kicked off Monday night on Chincoteague Island. The Ponies entered the tournament as the number two seed and faced off against seven seed Essex High School. The Trojans entered the tournament with an 8-9 record but were better than their record showed as they pushed the Ponies to five sets on their home court.
The Ponies were more than ready for their opponent and dominated the first two sets, working as a cohesive unit as all players contributed to the team’s success. Caroline Shelley recorded three strong blocks in the first set accompanied by two aces from Taylee Thomas. Emma Jackson recorded two kills. The set ended 25-20 after a Lindsey O’Shea kill from the middle.
The second set started with the Ponies behind but strong serving from behind the line allowed for the Ponies to pull ahead. Caroline Shelley led the team with four kills from the middle as she frequently shifted from playing the ball lightly to delivering several hard blows to the Trojan unit. Jackson and Thomas delivered two aces apiece and the set ended on one of Taylee’s aces.
Set three was close all the way to the finish. Chincoteague found itself behind 18-12 before mounting a resilient comeback. Emma Jackson was often met by double defenders but still managed to deliver four kills over the Trojans, which helped lock the score at 22. The two teams then traded points and after a Pony serve landed in the net, Essex had game point and executed with a game-saving ace, winning 25-23.
The fourth set was similar to the third as both teams battled long volleys and made miraculous saves. Jackson once again delivered several hard blows to the Essex front and back rows accompanied by strong play at the net by Shelley. The score was 22-22 once again and the Ponies had the Trojans on their heels once again but were unable to put the game away. An unforced error, followed by a Jackson hitting error, would give the Trojans the advantage and once again with game point they delivered a perfect serve winning 25-22.
With a trip to the next round at stake, Chincoteague dug down and had all hands on deck in the final set. An unforced error saw the Ponies initially down but a big block by Jackson and a dominate showing by Carolina Shelley, which included back to back kills from the middle followed by a block, would put the Ponies up 9-2. The Trojans managed to battle back and close the gap but they ultimately made too many mistakes and the Ponies won 15-11 on an Essex hitting error. Chincoteague advances to the semifinals where it will face off against a tough Rappahannock squad that is 16-3 on season.