FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (HSOT) — Facing Foard's volleyball team in a state championship is like getting a Tiger by the tail: it's hard to come out of the situation as the winner.
The school that has never lost in the N.C. High School Athletic Association championship match came away with its seventh title in seven appearances with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-11) victory over Ayden-Grifton on Saturday in the 2A title.
Foard (32-1) claimed its first crown in 14 years, adding to a proud volleyball tradition. The Tigers also won titles in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003, and 2005.
Foard's Michelle Thao was MVP after recording 12 digs and a team-high eight kills. Dara Shaffer had 20 digs at libero, leading a stellar defensive effort for the Tigers.
Ayden-Grifton (22-6) was making its first championship appearance as a program. The Chargers, led by coach Linda Bryant, took down 2A giants Carrboro and Wheatmore in back-to-back rounds entering Saturday. Their only other losses this year were to 4A and 3A teams.
Ayden-Grifton was led by Emily Dykes (eight kills, eight digs), Alexia Bryant (six kills, nine digs), and Aaleyah Garris (11 digs, two blocks).
Both teams, stationed in the rural communities of Littlefield in Pitt County and Plateau in Catawba County, brought more fans than any of the day's preceding three matches across 1A, 3A, and 4A.
Though the score was lopsided in favor of Foard, the Chargers did battle with long rallies in the first and second sets. But the Tigers, whose only loss this season was to Watauga, a fourth-round participant in the 3A playoffs that didn't lose a regular-season match, seemed to always come away with the point each time.
Before the match, Foard's Haley Johnston and Ayden-Grifton's Holly Cannon received NCHSAA sportsmanship awards from their respective schools.