Glory Road: Lady Tigers’ volleyball finished off miraculous season with 1st state title since 2005; 7th overall

The Fred T. Foard Lady Tigers’ varsity volleyball team earns its first state title in 14 years on Saturday, November 9, in Capel Arena at Fayetteville State University. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)Foard’s junior outside hitter Michelle Thao (10) earned MVP honors for her performance in the 2A State Championship win over Ayden-Grifton. (Photo by Brian Hendrix) Foard’s Sierra Ward (12) goes for one of her three blocks in the 2A State Championship on Saturday. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)Foard senior Dara Shaffer (6) goes for one of her team-high 20 digs. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)The Lady Tigers celebrate after becoming the 2019 2A State Champs. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

The Fred T. Foard Lady Tigers’ varsity volleyball team were the quintessential excellence of execution this season.

The bigger the moment, the more dominant the Lady Tigers seemed to be.

This was true throughout the 2019 season and stayed true in the 2A State Championship match against No. 3 East seed Ayden-Grifton on Saturday, November 9.

In the championship match, Foard (32-1) just added another notch to an already impressive belt as it garnered its seventh state championship (1st in 2A).

The Lady Tigers are now a perfect 7-for-7 in state title matches.

Although it was the Lady Tigers’ first state title appearance in 14 years, it showed no signs of letting up and added more gold to a very rich volleyball history.

It defeated Ayden-Grifton with yet another 3-0 sweep (25-15, 25-12 and 25-11.) With that sweep, Foard swept 29 of its 33 opponents this season.

The Lady Tigers won its first four titles under legendary head coach Linda Richards -- including three straight in the 90s (1995-97 and 2002.) Two more were won in 2003 and 2005.

Not only did Foard win its first title since 2005, but 2nd-year head coach Meredith Lombardi and assistant coach Jordan Ledford were apart of that championship squad. Ledford was also apart of the 2003 team.

“It’s really rewarding because they worked really hard,” said Lombardi in the post-match press conference. “...I keep talking about one game at a time and it’s like, ‘Holy crap. Now we’re here.’ And it’s like ‘we don’t have another game. This is it.’

We just looked at each other in the huddle and (I was like) ‘You’re the reason you got here. We have great fan support’....It was like ‘all right. We’re here, so let’s do it.’”

Shifting to the monumental win over Ayden-Grifton, Foard juniors Michelle Thao and Megan Dorsey, as well as senior libero Dara Shaffer made quite the impact.

Shaffer collected 20 digs to lead a fantastic defensive effort. Thao --who earned State Championship Most Valuable Player honors -- obtained a team-high 10 kills to go along with 12 digs.

Dorsey earned five kills, six digs and three aces on serve.

It didn’t stop there as sophomore Martina Foster provided dominance on the front line with six kills of her own.

Sierra Ward would be a defensive presence up front as she obtained three blocks on the night. Sarah Lingle and Haley Johnston were instrumental in setting their teammates up with great looks.

Johnston garnered a team-high 19 assists while Lingle earned eight.

Lingle would earn two aces on serve, as well, while Johnston played solid defense to come away with seven digs of her own. Johnston would too obtain three aces on serve like Dorsey.

“Coach had us up bright and early,” said Dorsey during the press conference about preparation before the championship. “She’s very team (oriented), like all of us together, and I think that really helped. You know, that shows on the court. It really does. So, we got up early. We ate breakfast and our heads were in it the morning we got out of bed.”

Ayden-Grifton (22-6) may have lost its first state title appearance in program history on Saturday, but the Lady Chargers defeated two 2A powerhouses in the form of Carrboro and Wheatmore in back-to-back rounds to get to the championship.

Emily Dykes led the way against Foard with eight kills and eight digs while Alexia Bryant followed up with six kills and nine digs.