The Saline Saints volleyball team ended their season with an exclamation point — make that four exclamation points!
Last week, the Lady Saints accomplished a goal that no other Saline volleyball team has been able achieve. They won their fourth consecutive ACE International Student Convention (ISC) Volleyball Championship at Central Missouri University.
The Lady Saints began their season in October with their annual participation in the Greater Chicagoland Tournament. The start of the Saline volleyball season is the closing for most of the volleyball squads that play at the tournament, so the pressure to play well is immediate. With the loss of three senior starters and such a young returning squad, the beginning of the season was a question mark to the coaches and the fans. The young Saline squad placed first in their qualifying division and went on to place 3rd in the tournament. Senior, Hannah Adkins, was the trailblazer for the squad as well as a tournament favorite with her fiery personality. She earned the MVP trophy for her tournament play.
The Lady Saints finished their regular season in the Kentucky Christian School Athletic Association (KCSAA) with a perfect 23-0 record. Unfortunately, the Saline squad lost the end of season tournament to Rolling Hills Christian School in the championship game. This devastating loss broke a 16 year winning streak in the KCSAA State Tournament.
As devastating as this loss was, the Saline squad knew they had a chance at redemption on a regional and international level of competition. Each year, Accelerated Christian Education(ACE) schools and homeschool groups from around the world hold regional competitions for all students using the ACE curriculum. The top winners from each region are qualified to compete at the International Student Convention (ISC).
The Lady Saints won their regional title which advanced them to the international level. This year’s ISC was held in Warrensburg, Missouri, at Central Missouri University. There were 27 teams in this year’s field including the team Saline had faced in the previous years’ championship game, Gateway, TX.
As returning champions, Saline received a bye the first round. The first team the Saints faced was Little West York Christian Academy from West Little York, TX. Saline defeated them easily 25-7, 25-8.
The next squad the Lady Saints faced was a phenomenal team from Santa Ana, California. The Lady Patriots had won 5th place the previous year, and had 4 returning seniors.
“This California squad came to win,” stated Saline coach Angela Boyd. The were amazing defensively, and were so quick offensively. "The game started at 8 a.m., and anyone who has coached a girls’ team knows that 8 a.m. is not a great time for optimal play. We struggled with their offense, and honestly there were moments that it looked bleak.”
Saline lost the first game 20-25.
“The girls still had some residual doubt in their hearts from the state tournament, but we kept reminding them that we didn't come this far to only get this far,” Boyd stated. “The second game, we started a newcomer, Brooklynn Carrier, who came in and gave us the little spark we needed. Our girls fought back the second game and won 25-16.”
The third game was pretty intense, but Saline found a way to pull out the match 25-22.
“After beating the California squad our confidence really soared, and we felt like we could possibly win this thing again,” Boyd vaunted. “It was also a huge weight off our shoulders to know the worst we could finish was 4th.”
Exactly one hour later, the Saline squad was back on the court to play a large squad from Ohio.
The Lady Saints' middle hitters, Hannah Adkins and Lindsey Perkins had great blocking and hitting games, and were able to shut down their attempts at offense. Saline beat Gospel Haven, Ohio, 25-12, 25-18.
In the championship game, Saline faced a squad they had played the previous year in the second round.
“We knew they were scrappy and had given us a solid match the year before, so we knew the championship game would not be a cake walk,” Boyd stated. “However, we came to win, and honestly, losing was not an option. My sister and I had told the girls that the only way to erase the sting of defeat (state tournament) was to do something that no other Saline squad had ever done, and that was to win four consecutive international titles. That distinction could be “‘theirs’.”
“I honestly don’t think anything could have motivated them more,” Boyd explained. “Our senior, Hannah Adkins, was a blocking machine. Our setters, Savannah and Sheridan Boyd, were incredible both with their setting and their serving. Our middle hitter, Lindsey Perkins had key blocks and spikes at crucial times in the game. Our first-year, outside hitter, Tiana Perry had one kill that just sparked excitement in the girls, and our first-year starter, Hope Haynes, had her best game of the season.”
Saline defeated Rio Grande, NM, 25-10, 25-12.
“We talked to the coaches of Rio Grande afterwards, and felt even more fortunate to have played like we did,” Boyd said. “The coach said the previous year's loss to us had so motivated them, he had placed our team's photo on each of their desks at the beginning of the year. Then, two months before ISC, he hung our team's photo in their gym as a reminder of who they wanted to beat. He said they logged over 4,000 hours in the gym just to beat Saline.”