It’s been a memorable season for the Dixie County (Cross City) volleyball team.
The Bears (16-9) won a district title and a region title, sweeping Bell both times, and now they’re just one win away from a state championship match appearance.
Even the superintendent stormed the court last Friday after Dixie County won its first regional title in volleyball.
“I really think our success has stemmed from a combination of different things,” second-year head coach Kelsie Parrott said. “But the number one reason is because we start with God and we end with God. Before and after every game, we give all the glory to God, win or lose. Of course, we want to win but we always pray for God’s will to be done. Behind God, I feel like this team has peaked at the right time in the season.”
Last year, in Parrott’s first season, the Bears went 12-10. They were seeded fourth in the district, but the team got quarantined the day they were supposed to be playing in the district semifinals.
So they didn’t even make it to the district championship game last year.
The "heart of the team last year" returned this year, besides a few who didn’t play. They only lost one senior.
“But we added Baylie Robson to our roster and she added so much depth and knowledge to our team,” Parrott said. “She has put this team on her back and taken on the ‘mom’ role of the team. Baylie has definitely been a game changer for us.”
Robson has 115 kills and is tied for team lead with 61 aces. She also leads the team with 635 assists, which ranks fourth in Class 1A. She finished with 30 assists and two aces in last Saturday’s regional final against the Bulldogs.
“After starting out slow and not really knowing what the postseason would look like, these girls kept after their goal,” Parrott said. “They kept showing up every day, putting in the work and effort that others weren’t. I preach to them all the time, ‘you play your role and trust that your teammates will play their role. There are two things that you can always control, your effort and your attitude.'”
Senior libero Aubrey Thomas has been putting in the effort all season. She leads in all classes in the state for digs and is ranked No. 12 nationally with 917 digs. Thomas had 28 digs in the region final.
Junior outside hitter Anna Ellison is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A with a .560 hitting percentage, while junior outside hitter Katie Roberts is eighth in 1A with 297 kills.
“Katie and Anna are game changers,” Parrott said. “When you watch great teams, most of the time they have one kid that can put the ball away. Not us. We have three players that can put the ball away.”
That third player is middle blocker Paris Williams, who ranks third in Class 1A with 128 blocks.
Roberts led the team with 18 kills in the 27-25, 26-24, 25-20 win against Bell in the regional final.
“Katie was our MVP last year, so this year I expected her to play in all six rotations and she has done just that,” Parrott said. “She has been a terminator on the court.”
Ellison finished second behind Roberts with 12 kills against the ‘Dogs.
“As for Anna, I think we all forget that she hasn’t even played outside for a whole season,” said Parrott, who explained that Anna was their starting middle last year. “Without Katie and Anna, this team wouldn’t be the same. I don’t have enough words to describe their impact on this team.”
Up next, is a match against a dynasty program and on the road. Sneads has won eight straight Class 1A state titles.
“For such a long time in volleyball, you have always heard about Sneads,” Parrott said. “Sneads is a very successful program and has phenomenal coaches and players. I think it will be a good matchup for our team.”
Dixie County enters the match riding a four-game winning streak and they have won eight of their last nine.
“Our team is competitive and my girls are gritty,” Parrott said. “There are only four teams left standing in Class 1A so every one of us are good. So we are going to have to capitalize on their errors and use them to our advantage.”
Sneads defeated Newberry in last year’s 1A state championship game.
“With Sneads winning eight straight state titles, they are comfortable in this position because they have been to the state finals more than you can count and for my girls that fuels their fire because I truly feel like they want it more than any team in 1A,” Parrott said. “I know it isn’t going to be easy per say, but I feel like if my team plays to their potential and wins in the defensive categories [blocking and digs], we will come out with a W.”
Parrott is confident heading into Saturday’s showdown.
“This team’s chemistry is incomparable to any team I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “As for the physical part of the game, their stats talk for themselves.”
The first serve is at 2 p.m.
Volleyball - State Semifinals - Saturday, Nov. 13, 2 p.m.
4A State Semifinal - No. 4 Academy of the Holy Names (Tampa) (21-8) at No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) (27-3)
2A State Semifinal - No. 4 Oak Hall (Gainesville) (21-8) at No. 1 Seacrest Country Day (Naples) (24-4)
1A State Semifinal - No. 4 Dixie County (Cross City) (16-9) at No. 1 Sneads (19-10)