CLINTON - Down two sets to zero, Taja Hunley and the Thomas Sumter Academy volleyball team made a last-ditch effort to take the third set and stay alive in their SCISA 2A state championship match against Spartanburg Christian on Tuesday.
The defending state champion Lady Warriors had already closed out wins in the first two sets at Presbyterian College's Furman B. Pinson Jr. Court, and were up 22-18 in the third set of the best-of-5 match.
However, as teammate Diamond Gibson served, Hunley camped out in front of the net and delivered three straight kills to get the Lady Generals to within 22-21.
Spartanburg Christian proved too solid up front though.
Led by Peyton Thompson, who reached the 2,000-kill mark for during the game, the Lady Warriors closed out a 25-23 win in the third set to clinch the match and back-to-back state championships.
"We played our game that we played all year," TSA head coach Gwen Herod said. "That's what we came to do. I think our girls played great. They have a lot to be proud of."
Spartanburg Christian, which was riding a 14-game winning streak going into the final match of the season, finished the year 26-17.
"That's a good team," Spartanburg Christian head coach Andrew Garland said of the Lady Generals. "They're probably the most athletic team we've played all year. They came out like they had been here four years in a row. They do good things and they can be tough. I didn't want them to outwork us."
The Lady Generals finish at 28-3.
Spartanburg Christian controlled the first two sets, but TSA did everything it could to keep close.
The Lady Generals opened the first set with a 3-0 lead, but Spartanburg Christian came back to tie things up at 3. From that point on, TSA and the Lady Warriors matched point for point until Carson Coggins came to serve for Spartanburg Christian.
The Lady Warriors scored four points in Coggins' service to take a 15-9 lead over the Lady Generals. They eventually closed out the first set 25-16.
The second set was a carbon copy of the first, with both teams battling point-for point. It wasn't until Corey Nichols served up four straight service points that the Lady Warriors eventually took an 18-13 lead.
Spartanburg Christian eventually took a 2-0 advantage with a 25-19 win of the second set.
"They're a good team, they're a strong team," Herod said of Spartanburg Christian. "Both sides had some mistakes, but we were true to our game, which is aggressive. A few times we got pulled out of that with some different things. In order to be aggressive, we've got to play all the way through."
With their backs to the wall, the Lady Generals fought their way in the third set. TSA eventually squeaked out a 17-14 lead on the Lady Warriors.
Down three points, Spartanburg Christian itched to close out the game in three sets. With Coggins again as the server, the Lady Warriors scored seven points to go from a 17-15 deficit to a 22-17 advantage.
That run set up the Lady Generals' last stand. Unfortunately for TSA, it didn't work out.
"We could've done better," Hunley said, "but considering they were a really good team, it just didn't go our way."
The Lady Generals finished second best, but have nothing to be ashamed of, Herrod said.
"They didn't leave anything on the floor, and they made a memory for a lifetime," Herod said. "They have nothing to hang their heads about, I'm proud of them."