When you’re up by seven points in game two with a game one win in your back pocket already, you don’t necessarily need a momentum swing in your favor.
Madison County’s Emily Dodson provided it anyway. Dodson let rip a blast of a kill to put Maidson up eight late in game two, igniting a raucous crowd, the Madison bench and the Madison coaching staff.
“That was awesome for us,” Dodson said.
The Mountaineers proceeded to close out that game and with a rally in game three, finish off the match 3-0 over George Mason and wrap up the program’s first-ever region title.
“We really wanted it, we were just hyped in the locker room, hyped out of the locker room we really wanted it,” said Madison setter Makenna Santinga.
The Mountaineers (24-1) will now host the Class 2 state quarterfinals against Bruton Saturday at 6 p.m.
Winning game three was perhaps the most challenging part of the night as Madison cruised 25-14 and 25-16 in games one and two. With Madison holding a 2-1 advantage going into the night over George Mason in the series, the Mountaineers seemed determined to close it out in three and move on to the state tournament. The Mustangs broke out to an 8-5 lead over Madison though and eventually went up 23-22, putting Madison perilously close to facing a game four. A serving error and then a hitting error at the end of a long rally that included an incredible diving dig by Kaylan Boone allowed Madison to claw back into it and take the lead 24-22. That led to the final point, a sustained rally that tested the Mountaineers’ focus and resiliency.
“Nervewracking. Super nervewracking,” said Madison coach Carrie Hardy. “We did what we had to and came away with the point. That’s all that matters.”
Boone made a couple of huge plays during the rally to keep Madison alive and then a George Mason error at the end set off a wild celebration. Having the defense keep the Mountaineers alive was a testament to just how far the Mountaineers have come.
“Our defense has gotten so much better,” Santinga said. “All of this we’re doing right now is because of our defense. One hundred percent because of our defense. I don’t think they get enough credit for that. They have stepped it up times 100 from where we were early in the season.”
Dodson finished with a team high nine kills, continuing a torrid run for the sophomore during the postseason where she’s gotten locked in in a big way.
“I think things just clicked for me in the postseason,” Dodson said. “I don’t know what happened, it just happened.”
Allie Burbridge also got in on the offensive act with eight kills to go with her four blocks while Ava Jenkins chipped in six. Santinga finished with 25 assists to trigger the efficient Madison offense and also came up with three blocks, three aces and nine digs while Abi Tanner led Madison with 11 digs and chipped in three blocks. Lane Fox chipped in two aces and three blocks.