After every kill by the High Point volleyball team, its players gather in a circle, hop in unison and flail their arms backward as if simulating an explosion while shouting, “Boom!”
Except their last kill.
Too powerful for visiting Bowie, High Point won Friday’s 4A South Region championship 25-14, 25-21, 25-17. Following the match-ending kill, fans and cheerleaders swarmed the court to mob the players before they could complete their traditional kill celebration.
Really, the result made bigger impact than any stomp and shout could.
By reversing a regular-season sweep loss to Bowie, High Point won its first region title since 2005 and just second since 1979.
“I’m not sure people expected us to be winners,” said High Point coach Shirley Diggs, whose team will play 4A North Region champion Dulaney in a state semifinal. “We try to be quiet. I don’t call the newspaper a lot. I don’t, because it’s about us. I told them we have to pull together, and let’s just play.”
Once Friday’s match began, High Point’s hard hitting, led by Keturah Gregory and Dami Oloyede, overwhelmed Bowie.
Gregory, a senior, is playing high school volleyball for the first time after shuffling between private school and home school her first three years. Immediately, she fell in love with the team atmosphere.
Entering the playoffs, she just wanted herself and her teammates “to do their very best.”
“You win some, you lose some,” Gregory said. “As long as you put your whole heart on the court, you’re there to have each other’s back, that’s all that matters.
“It’s a whole lot better when you win, though.”
Dami Oloyede, a sophomore, put a lot more pressure on herself for this postseason run. Her coach promised letterman jackets and a dinner out if High Point won a county or region title, and Oloyede wanted those rewards.
But Bowie won the county title, so this was Oloyede’s last shot.
After Oloyede drilled a kill in the first game and High Point celebrated with its mock explosion, a teammates whispered to her, “Good job. I like that. I like that.” Oloyede just pushed her away and back into position.
“I wanted to stay focused,” Oloyede said.
Finally, late in High Point’s nine-point run to close the third game, Oloyed relaxed and savored the moment.
Following the match, Diggs took the microphone and explained to the crowd that she has served as region director for many years and has had to repeatedly award the championship plaque to another team.
“But, today, I get to present it to High Point High School!” Diggs said as the fans burst into applause.
Bowie reached the region final for the fourth time in the past six years, but for the first time since 2007 and 2008, has now gone consecutive seasons with a region title.
“It was a very good season,” Bowie coach Luanne Smith said. “I don’t think anybody expected us, at the beginning of the season, to be in this game tonight. So, I’m very proud of the season we had.”
After the match, she told her players to keep their heads up.
“This wasn’t a game where we lost. They beat us. And to me, that’s important,” Smith said. “Losing is different than getting beat, and High Point beat us tonight.”