RALEIGH — A while back, Leesville Road coach Taine Mergenthaler brought his team into the gym and had them look around.
Of all the blue and green banners hanging on the walls, there was just one from the volleyball program.
“I told them we want to leave something for the school to remember us by,” Mergenthaler said. “The best team in Leesville’s history made it to the final four.”
With Saturday’s 3-1 win over Cap Eight conference rival Wakefield in the fourth round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs, the Pride has matched that accomplishment.
“If we keep going, we can say we’re the best team this school has seen,” Mergenthaler said.
The undefeated Pride (26-0) will face Hoggard (20-6) in the 4A East regional championship Tuesday.
Leesville Road was no stranger to its opponent Saturday, having met the Wolverines three times this year in conference play – twice in the regular season and then in the conference tournament finals. The Pride won all three matches, and as it had twice before, Leesville dropped a set but still came out on top.
The Wolverines stunned Leesville in the first set, coming back from being a 6-1 hole to go on a 24-9 run. They won 25-15.
“It was an emotional game, and they appeared to come out a little slow, and we just took advantage of being mentally prepared,” said Wakefield coach Cynthia Terrell.
The Pride struggled to get much past Wakefield’s blockers early on, but made adjustments in the second set to tie the match with a 25-20 win.
The Wolverines (19-5) got behind early in the third set and looked poised for another comeback. Wakefield tied the set at 12, but the next play would prove to be a huge blow for the visiting team.
Wakefield junior middle hitter Darian Mack sprained her ankle on an attack, sidelining her for the rest of the contest.
“Obviously that was a game changer for us, when she went out,” Terrell said. “We were unable to make the adjustment offensively. She is a key player and when you take a key player out, it’s hard to adjust.”
Terrell commended her players for filling the void and hanging with Leesville, but the Pride took control of the match with a 25-20 win.
Wakefield tried to fight back and force a fifth set, jumping out to an 8-1 lead in the fourth. But Leesville came out on top, 25-19, for the match win.
“That’s just what it’s about,” Mergenthaler said. “You’re the No. 1 team around and everyone’s gunning for you. (Wakefield was) playing fantastic, and you need these kinds of games.”
Terrell said she’s happy with her team’s season.
“Overall, nobody even thought we would finish in the top five in our conference,” Terrell said. “This is not the end of our journey.”