Victory Christian Conquerors Win Fifth Consecutive State Volleyball Championship
By Mike Moguin
GTR Sports Writer
Victory Christian’s nickname is the Conquerors. It lived up to that name when it won a state championship in volleyball for a fifth consecutive year in October.
The local private school won the 2021 title with a win against Regent Prep in the Class 4A final, winning three sets to two (25-23, 23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 18-16).
“It blows my mind that we’ve done this because I’ve never expected to win four rings before,” senior outside hitter Bella Wakley said.
Along with fellow senior teammates Jessa Gilyard, middle blocker and Hannah Warlick, another outside hitter, Wakley is the first class in the program to win a state title in all four years of their high school careers.
“For this to happen to me changes my life, my future, my high school career and everything,” Wakley said. “It’s been amazing to have all these teammates by my side. I could not have done it without my them. We all could not have done it without the coaches. We could have not won four rings without them pushing us.”
With players having graduated and a new class coming in annually, campaigning for another state championship every season is always a challenge.
“I think it’s a blessing because almost every year we had to restart our team,” Gilyard said. “Because the seniors who had gone were like the main players on the court, each grade had to step up each time. It’s crazy every time they’ve stepped up to play.”
“God did bless us,” Wakley said.
But this year the challenge was greater, the girls said.
“We had a lot of younger people,” Wakley said “Most of the people that played were mainly seniors, but only three of us had varsity experience.”
“We almost had to start fresh,” Gilyard said.
The No. 1 Lady Conquerors struggled early in the year having lost two of their first three matches. But they went through the rest of the season going 34-1 for a 35-3 finish.
“It was like we were very determined to not let our streak down. We were really determined to keep it going,” Gilyard said.
“We always have a target on our back. We clicked really well at the end of the season,” Wakley said.
Victory won at the Class 5A level in 2017, the first year of their current run. The following year, it was moved down to 4A, where it also won state. It then went back up to 5A the next two seasons, winning in that class again. This year, it was back down to 4A.
When it reached the state tourney, the Lady Conquerors won in the semifinals against Lincoln Christian, a three-time state champion, having won 3A in 2018 and 4A the next two years. It was the fourth time this season Victory beat Lincoln.
“The semifinal against Lincoln was tough, because it was the fourth time we played them this year,” Victory coach Dan Donahue said. “We smoked them the first two sets and then they beat us in the third set, then we smoked them in the fourth set. It’s hard to beat any good team four times.”
“They (Lincoln) know how you play, so we had to work around that,” Gilyard said. “We had to change our defense sometimes in the middle of the game to work around any strategy they used against us. When playing Regent we learned where they hit the most and we had to move our defense around for that.”
Victory also played Regent, ranked second, for a fourth time for 2021 when they met in the final. Regent was the last team Victory lost to back on Aug. 31. It beat the Lady Rams in their next two meetings in September.
“I thought it was very challenging,” Wakley said. “We didn’t have our best game. But we played hard and we were determined not to lose and everybody was giving it their all, even though not all of us played our A game. But it was probably one of the most challenging games we had this year for sure.”
“I think it was more of a mental challenge, because we are a pretty good team,” Gilyard said. “When you are mentally out of it, that’s when it gets us. But we all came together and stayed focused on it. We didn’t give any last points at the end.”