Williamsport walloped the Tigers 26-24, 25-13, 29-9 in a state semifinal game at Ritchie Coliseum Tuesday night, November 13.
It was essentially all Williamsport after that. The Washington County school won the next two points to take the set.
"The whole game hinged on the last couple points of the first set," Rising Sun coach Rich Wilson said at the start of a postgame press conference. "I think after we managed to lose that set, I won't say we fell apart, but we became very, very anxious so we started doing things that weren't typically what we normally would do."
Williamsport stormed out to 15-7 and 23-8 leads in the second set and scored the first eight points of the third set.
"Hat's off to Williamsport," said Wilson. "We knew they were a good team coming in. They probably showed they were a little bit better than perhaps we saw on tapes we had. Certain their serving, especially [Number] 14 (Mackenzie Shank, who had four aces) caused us big fits. So it was not a good time for our passing to go south but hat's off to a great group of servers."
Rising Sun (20-3) was appearing in the state semifinals for the sixth straight season and 16th time in school history. The Tigers are 8-8 in state semifinals contests.
Williamsport earned the right to play Glenelg Monday night, November 19, in a bid for a state-record 15th state title. The Wildcats upended the Tigers in the 2016 state title tilt.
"We knew they were good defensively, maybe not quite as good as Perryville is, but the balls come back up," said Wilson. "Certainly, offensively, they're the best team we faced all year. We got some touches. We got some blocks. But they really just picked our blocks apart. Hat's off to them. They'll always be a good team. Williamsport will always be a good team. That's why they've won so many state championships."
Leara Lewis led Williamsport with 13 kills and 15 digs. Mackenzie Pryor and Mackenzie Shank each added six kills.
"They're the best offensive team we've seen this year," said Wilson.
"By far," Young, Hoyle, and Eckerd said almost in unison.
"We don't play anyone of their caliber," Wilson added.
Sophia Eckerd recorded a team-high 13 kills for Rising Sun. Lauren Hudson supplied six kills and five digs and Megan Hoyle notched 12 assists.
Following the first set, the Wildcats did a significantly better job of stifling the Tigers' attack. Eckerd was able to laugh about it afterwards. "Well I did get blocked in the face and that was a wake-up call, that, yeah, they're figuring out where I'm going," she said. "It was very frustrating. I didn't know where to hit They're an amazing team. They got everything up which was scary. Just didn't know where to hit so I had to make do."
It was an emotional night for Wilson, who is fighting prostate cancer and has been undergoing treatment during the season. "It's been a difficult year for me," he said. "They say a battle plan never survives past the first shot. Pretty much all the plans that I set out for this year didn't survive the first day of tryouts. We had to kind of revamp everything as we went along. It's a group of young players. Breelyn is the only one with extensive varsity experience…Throughout the course of the season, it was high expectations being tempered with the fact that our playing experience level was not where it usually is…If I had to make a prediction at the beginning of the year, I thought we'd probably make it to this point. I think getting past this point required a superior effort from all of us, me included. But as we trained up over the course of the year, I think we just trained up a little slower than I expected. That's probably mostly my fault. With my health issues over the course of the season, I just couldn't do as much as I normally do."
Young was the lone varsity contributor remaining from the Tigers' 2015 state title team. "It means more than anything," Young said. "This is every girl's dream to make it here. I'm so blessed to be able to make it through four years and be able to play on the court all four years."