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UPDATED: First Ladies...Lewisville wins state volleyball crown

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By Travis Jenkins

This month is often referred to as “no shave November” but Lewisville Volleyball Coach Josh Renaud had a good excuse for ditching his long beard on Saturday.

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The Lewisville volleyball team, which until last year had one post-season win in its history, rallied from a set down to defeat Branchville 3-1, earning the program’s first state championship.

In the early going, Lewisville lost more points on whistles than it did to Branchville kills. The opening set ended on a 12-4 Branchville run and the Lady Yellow Jackets took the opening set 25-16.  As was the case when Lewisville faced a tie-breaker set against Dixie for the upperstate championship, though, the Lady Lions didn’t appear shaken or bothered by the deficit or pressure of the moment.

“We started off just feeling them out like we do for a lot of games,” Josh Renaud said. “We all make mistakes. I made a mental mistake myself there, but I told the girls its how you take responsibility and come back from that and play the next point.”

Branchville, which was gunning for its second-straight state crown, got solid service and kept points alive to take a 10-6 lead in set two. At about that time, though, it seemed like something clicked for the Lady Lions.

“We started using their weaknesses to our advantage,” said senior captain Lauren Crocker. “We knew it was going to come down to who was mentally stronger.”

The Lewisville coaching staff has preached a family vibe all year, where everyone does what’s asked of them and everyone contributes and that was on display in the latter half of set two. Abby Dixon served two straight points for Lewisville and Allie Keels set up Amber Bass for a pair of wicked kill shots. Lewisville went up 21-19, but then gave up four straight points to trail 23-21, just two points from a 2-0 set deficit. Lewisville tied it at 24-24, went ahead 25-24 on a nice drop shot from Keels, then won the set and tied things up at 1-1 as Branchville returned a shot into the net.

The defending state champs weren’t going without a fight and they strung together a 7-0 run to erase an early deficit in set three and take a 12-9 lead. What they were never able to erase or neutralize, though, was the power of Bass. The multi-sport junior standout came up with kill after kill in the set. She hit one so hard into a Branchville player that the unfortunate Lady Yellow Jacket was actually knocked backwards. She showed versatility too, drilling one from near the post on her left, to an empty spot just inbounds on the other side of the court. She was the finisher, coming up with nine huge kills and a block in the set, but everyone contributed as every Branchville serve or return was kept alive (often by Crocker and senior Aly Butler) and set (often by Keels or Dixon) for Bass. Chloe Thomas also got in a good groove behind the line, serving four straight points in one stretch. The Lady Lions finished the set on a scorching 16-4 run, won it 25-16 and moved just one set away from a state title.

In the fourth set, once again, everybody contributed. Branchville ran out to a quick 10-6 lead. Dixon ended the brief Branchville spurt with a kill, then Bass came up with two kills and another block. Lewisville got on a run with Bass serving to take the lead. One serve was returned into the net, Dixon had another kill, Bass served an ace, another shot was returned into the net and Dixon had another kill to make it 15-14 Lewisville. Branchville clicked off two straight points to regain the lead, but the Lady Lions scored three straight to go up 19-16. Dixon and Bass essentially served as a wall for the remainder of the match, putting their team up 24-20. As exciting and hard-fought as the entire match was, it ended on a rather anticlimactic note. Branchville did notch two straight points to pull within 24-22, but then hit a serve long and out-of-bounds, scoring the state championship point for the Lady Lions. The Lewisville bench and stands erupted and the team formed a giant dog pile on the court.

“I was so proud of our girls,” said Amelia Renaud, Lewisville assistant varsity coach and JV head coach. “They went out there and wanted it.”

Josh and Amelia come from a volleyball family, with their father still serving as the volleyball coach at Carthage High in New York State. When she was a five-year-old ball girl for her dad, Amelia said she could not have imagined winning a state title herself.

Josh Renaud said a lot of things contributed to the two-year run that saw Lewisville make it to the upperstate finals last year and win state this season. Obviously, the team is blessed with talented athletes, but those athletes have also dedicated themselves to the sport and have had total buy-in for the plan he and Amelia have brought to the school. That has included always having one another’s back.

‘We use each other for confidence. We have this bond…we boost each other’s confidence on the court,” Butler said.

It was not lost on any of the players that Saturday’s win marked the first state title in a girls sport for Lewisville since the competitive cheer team brought home the last of its four titles in 2001. All of the players support the boy’s teams at the school but also wanted to make a statement of their own.

“I’m so glad we won,” Bass said. “We’ve started something now for girls sports at Lewisville.”

Having seen his team fulfill their promise, Renaud had to fulfill a promise of his own. He told the team last year that if they won state, they could cut off his beard. He made good on that in the parking lot just before the team headed home, handing the players scissors and razors and letting them take off his beard. He said he didn’t mind, though. In more ways than one, his team has more than made the cut. For a video of highlights, interviews and celebrations from state, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOM0uD8WLm8&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop