FORT WALTON BEACH – Come the fifth set against crosstown rival Choctaw, everything was working for the Vikings.
Sarah Duckett and AnnaMarie Knowles dominated the net.
Carsyn Tillman and Harmoni Carswell delivered crisp sets.
Jazyah Jarboe-Alford and Madison Ballard came up with dig after dig.
“It didn’t matter what position the girls were playing, whether they were on the sideline of on the court, these girls pulled it together,” said second-year FWB coach Linda Dugan.
The result was a 15-11 victory to cap the District 1-5A marathon at the TeePee, a thriller that fittingly see-sawed between the archrivals.
“The bottom line was teamwork,” said Dugan, whose Vikings went 2-1 against the Indians last year, including a postseason-clinching, district semifinal victory.
The Vikings (1-2) opened with a 25-21 first set. Choctaw (2-1) answered with a 25-11 win.
Dugan and Co. responded with a 25-17 win. The Indians evened the score with a 25-18 answer.
Hype. Cachet. Parity.
This symbolized everything great about the Choctaw-FWB rivalry.
“It’s kinda interesting because if you look at our girls and you look at their girls, they’re talking before the game because they're friends,” Dugan said. “They play travel ball together and they grew up together. But when play starts, the real competitiveness begins.”
Duckett led the Vikings with 20 kills and five blocks, followed by Knowles with 13 kills and Jarboe-Alford with nine kills and a team-best 19 digs.
Tillman chipped in 26 assists and seven digs and Carswell added 18 assists.
After the match, the Vikings immediately reveled in the win with their support system.
“When we were done, they went to the students and parents and celebrated with them before they even came into the huddle,” Dugan said. “You gotta appreciate the fans and their role in the win.”
Choctaw and Fort Walton Beach next face off Sept. 12 at FWB High. Until then, the Vikings will travel to Crestview on Tuesday and Choctaw is at the Labor Day Classic this weekend in Foley, Alabama.