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Crusaders believed in title run from beginning

Laurens Academy’s Olivia Huck (10) goes up for a block against Cambridge Academy in Monday night’s state final at Erskine College.

Laurens Academy head volleyball coach Shannon McGee needed just two words to sum up her team’s latest accomplishment Monday night standing amid celebratory chaos on court at Erskine’s Belk Arena.

Two in a row. Who would’ve believed it?” was the question posed.

We did,” McGee said.

LA had moments earlier won its second straight SCISA Class 1A state volleyball championship, beating Cambridge Academy 3-1 (25-20, 25-17, 18-25, 25-21).

The Crusaders also defeated Cambridge to claim the state championship a year ago and returned its entire roster and set their sights on a repeat.

There was a lot of pressure I felt like coming in,” said McGee, crediting the team’s six seniors with leading the way in a season-long title defense that included matches outside SCISA against the likes of public school 5A programs such as Byrnes, Hillcrest and Chapin. “They came in knowing it was their last year, and they just performed. Every one of them just performed.”

The Crusaders jumped out to early leads in the first two games as they led 2-0. The Cougars didn’t lead in a game until they took three of the first five points in Game 3, which they went on to win 25-18.

But LA quickly righted itself, scoring five straight points behind Madison Sherman’s serve and taking a 6-3 lead in the final game. The Crusaders doubled up Cambridge again with a 12-6 lead, and the Cougars were never able to put together a run of more than a couple of points from there.

We really just didn’t give up on the ball,” McGee said. “Balls that you thought had given them a point on us some how found a way over the net and ended up giving us a point.”

Madison Sherman (6) in action against Cambridge Academy.

Senior outside hitter Madison Sherman, an all-state selection as a junior who committed during the season to North Greenville, said the second title was even better than the first.

Just going out on a win is just amazing,” she said. “Being able to say we won twice is even better. That was my last game with my sister (Campbell). It was just phenomenal to be able to play with her and say I won a state championship with her in my last game.”

While the Sherman sisters were the focal point of LA’s offense in the finals and throughout the season, Madison said everyone played a role in the team’s second state championship.

We adjusted our rotations just today, and I thought everyone handled that very well,” she said. “Our bench was the loudest bench I’ve ever heard in my whole life, so you don’t have to be on the court to contribute. You need that energy from everyone. . . . Everyone just played really clean and played together. I thought that was really cool.”

LA has defeated Cambridge in eight of their last nine meetings, including the two state finals and twice for SCISA Region 4-1A championships.

During the regular season, Cambridge was the only SCISA team to beat LA, getting a 3-2 victory Oct. 10. After downing Cambridge 3-1 in a winner-take-all match for the region title, the Crusaders bullied their way through this past weekend’s state tournament with five dominating 2-0 victories at Myrtle Beach to set up the rematch they knew would be awaiting them.

We had our eyes on this game, and we were ready to get here,” McGee said.

The Crusaders ended the season with a 27-7-2  record. Cambridge finished 23-3-1 with two of its three losses coming to LA.

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