It was fitting that it would end this way.
The final group of Whale Branch High School volleyball players to have played at Battery Creek High School were recognized during the Warriors' senior night. The Dolphins, none for nostalgia, ruined Whale Branch's final home match with a 3-2 victory, avenging a Warriors' win at Battery Creek earlier in the season.
Battery Creek took the first two games Thursday, 25-18, 25-22. Whale Branch won the next two, 25-19, 25-20, to force the tiebreaker.
Dolphins coach Stephanie Weltz, her players affected by a warm gym, substituted liberally and planned her timeouts to allow her team to cool down. Battery Creek bounced back to win the final set, 15-13.
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"We're used to playing in the artic abyss of Battery Creek," Weltz said. "But they really did pull together to get this one tonight. They were rallying."
Battery Creek senior and three-year starter Sara Anderson finished with 11 kills, nine digs and three assists. Senior Tina Kwok delivered five aces and came up with 10 digs and Aujena Mungin tallied 10 kills, nine digs and three assists to help lead the Dolphins.
Whale Branch senior Jamie Whalen, a former Dolphin, led the Warriors with 15 kills and 17 digs. Maddy Summerill added 20 assists and 10 digs for Whale Branch.
First-year Whale Branch coach Audrey Rhode said the Warriors might have been complacent to start after having swept their rivals the first meeting. Battery Creek benefited from having setter Vanessa Stanley for the rematch after a conflict forced her to miss the first match.
The match won't affect either team's playoff standing. Whale Branch finished the season 21-6, 7-2 in Region 5-A and will host its first-round, Class 1-A playoff match.
"We've got to come out and play a little tougher," said Rhode, a former S.C. State volleyball player who came to Whale Branch from McCormick. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us for a whole week to try to make this happen."
Battery Creek improved to 15-8 and is 9-3 in Region 6-AA with region matches remaining against indomitable Bishop England and Ridgeland-Hardeeville. The Dolphins expect the region's third seed and will travel to start the playoffs.
Weltz said her group has transitioned well into the smaller classification.
"It's a little more feasible for us to win some games," Weltz said. "When you're playing Bluffton, which has twice the number of students to pull from, it's kind of unfair at times."
Whale Branch, ranked No. 7 in the most recent Class 1-A coaches poll, proved a worthy rival. After dropping the first two games Thursday, Rhode told her team to play with more heart. The Warriors didn't trail during the third game after grabbing a 7-6 lead and scored nine of the final 14 points of the fourth game to force the tiebreaker.
With the score tied at 13 and the senior night crowd in a frenzy, the visitors won the final two points to play spoiler.