After picking up its first-ever Peach Belt Conference tournament victory Friday night, GC turned in another dominant performance in front of a raucous home crowd to advance to the tournament finals Sunday.
“[The crowd] was huge. We did so good on this court in front of this crowd tonight,” said Bobcats head coach Gretchen Krumdieck. “We played really well, but being in this atmosphere is such a huge advantage for us.”
Freshman outside hitter Libby Bochniak agreed with Krumdieck, saying that the crowd’s roar following every point helps give energy to the team and fire them up.
“Anytime we get a point we get reinforced, and the energy from the crowd really helps keep us going,” Bochniak said.
Behind the rocking crowd, the Bobcats jumped on USC-Aiken early, running out to early leads in the first two sets.
“We really did our homework. We know that team in and out, and we were ready to play today, Krumdieck said. “We were just so focused, and that’s what really helped us win this match today.”
Despite taking a two-sets-to-none lead, the second-seeded Pacers did not go away, as they raced out to a 6-1 lead in the third set. But the Bobcats quickly found their footing and rallied with a 5-0 run of their own to tie the set, and GC eventually took its first lead at 10-9.
“I just let [the team] stay relaxed. I don’t try and get in their head too much, and I just try to let them go and try to dig out of it,” said Krumdieck of her coaching philosophy when the team faced a deficit. “They did a really good job. That’s kind of how we’ve always been, and I didn’t want to freak out on them.”
From there, GC’s dominance continued in the set, but USC-Aiken had one last run and forced a Bobcat timeout after bringing the score to 23-21.
“I just wanted to make sure they understood that we had the match,” said Krumdieck when asked about her message to the team during the timeout. “We just had to take a little breath and just focus and regroup a little bit, and we were great.”
Following the timeout, GC was able to refocus and win the final two points to close out the Pacers and secure its first-ever berth in the PBC Conference tournament championship Sunday.
“I don’t even have words to explain it,” said senior libero Chandler Ewaldsen about the Bobcats’ first appearance in the conference championship match. “We’ve never made it past the first round, but this team is amazing.”
The Bobcats will be back in action Sunday afternoon at 2:30 when they will take on the conference’s No. 1 seed, Flagler, for the second time in a week. The last time the two teams met, Flagler escaped with a narrow victory in five sets.
“We’ve wanted this Flagler match since last weekend,” said Krumdieck. “[The keys] will be a lot of the same as today and just staying focused, staying aggressive and just staying in the moment.”