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Lady Knights gets early Halloween scare

Posted: October 27, 2016 11:52 a.m.
Updated: October 28, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

NC'S ABIGAIL DURANT SOARS for a point in action from Wednesday's playoff win over Greenville Tech Charter School.

Like well-mannered children, number four seeds who take on a region champion are expected to be seen and not heard.

Try telling that to the North Central volleyball team.

The Region 4-AA champions had to pull out their full arsenal before sending fourth-seeded Greenville Tech Charter School home, kicking and screaming with a harder than it looked 3-0 loss.

In this survive and advance portion of the season, the Lady Knights topped the Warriors, 25-16, 25-21 and 25-22, to move into Monday’s second round pairing against Greer Middle College, a winner over Keenan. Monday’s match will be played at The Castle in Boonetown with a 6 p.m. start time.

In a division which is wide-open now that Bishop England has moved into the AAA ranks, the upper hand in class AA volleyball has shifted to the Upper State. No further evidence of that was needed than knowing that Greenville Tech finished fourth in Region 2.

NC head coach Andy Johnson knew his girls were not entertaining your normal fourth seed which usually is just happy to be in the postseason and goes down quietly.

“We knew coming in that some of those Upstate regions play solid volleyball,” he said. “We got some information that (Greenville Tech) was very competitive in their region. We warned our girls ahead of time that we had to be ready to play because there are no guarantees with who we had to face in our Upper State bracket.”

The Warriors showed that they did not make the long trip to Boonetown just happy to get out of school early as three of NC’s hardest shots in the first set were sent back over the net in the first six points of the opener.

It was an Abigail Durant kill, however, which found the floor and gave the hostesses (18-2) a quick 4-1 lead. The visitors hurt themselves in the early going by being called for being in the net on four different occasions and helped give NC an 8-3 lead which went to 10-3 at one point.

Showing that they were not going to go down quietly, the Warriors used a 5-0 run to close the gap to 11-9 as the Lady Knights had communication problems on the defensive end which helped fuel the guests’ surge.

A block from Gretta West --- one of her two on the night --- got the Lady Knights back on track to make it 12-9 while touching off an 8-3 spree which included a pair of kills from Alexis Hackworth for points 15 and 16. The Lady Knights never lost the momentum from that point in going on for the nine-point win.

In a near carbon copy start of the first to the second set, NC jumped to a 4-1 advantage when Bree Lee sent a backhand shot to no-man’s land for the fourth point. Another misdirection shot from Abigail Durant found the floor and the Lady Knights looked to be clicking along with the 9-4 lead.

When the Warriors sent a return shot into the net, it put their deficit at 16-9. Rather than fold the tents, the visitors embarked on a 6-2 run, trimming the deficit to 17-15 while forcing Johnson to burn a time out to regroup his team while trying to get Greenville server Morgan Walter out of her groove.

The one-minute break did not slow the Warriors’ roll as Walter stayed at the service stripe for seven consecutive points before sending a serve out of bounds to knot things at 18. The Lady Knights were able to stem the tide with Lee on the line for two points with a Hackworth block pushing the NC lead to 22-19 to help put the Warriors away.

The second set, Johnson said, was not so much of what Greenville Tech did right as it was the little things his team did not do which opened the door for the comeback.

 “It was more of what we weren’t doing,” he said. “We made some unforced errors and did some uncharacteristic things on the court. Give (Greenville) credit, though, there were a lot of balls that, against most teams, would have hit off the floor. They found ways to get that ball back up.

“They fought all the way to the end. We were very fortunate to come out of that second set with the win.”

Hardly ready to thrown in the towel, the guests had the third set knotted at six before NC went on an 8-2 run with Scarlett Jones on the stripe for four straight points in which she had an ace while getting a kill from Durant as the Lady Knights went up, 14-8, as the Warriors called a time out to try and stem the tide.

Greenville Tech closed the gap to two points on five occasions, trailing 15-13, 19-17, 20-18, 21-19 and 22-20, before NC sent a return shot into the net to bring the Warriors within a point at 22-21. Durant then returned a shot which glanced off the body of a Greenville Tech player to make it 23-21. Jones would provide the capper when her shot found the mark for the 25th and match point.

Johnson said his girls never lost their cool, even when some of their hardest shots came back to their side of the net. That is all part of the game and it was not anything his team had not seen before.

“It’s not frustrating. We’ve seen that from a few teams we’ve seen before this year,” he said. “It’s expected. We’ve seen some quality teams in our region and in tournament play this year.

“They know to play until the whistle sounds and that ball hits the floor. Sometimes, we stopped prematurely before the whistle sounded this year but we’ve learned from those mistakes.”

Hackworth led the Lady Knights along with net with 10 kills to go along with seven digs and a pair of aces. Durant added nine kills, five digs and a block. Lee enjoyed an eight-kill, six-dig, two-block night while Logan Coates had 32 assists to go along with seven digs.

If nothing else, having to work hard for an opening round win as opposed to breezing into the second round will help the Lady Knights get focused and into full playoff mode.

“It’s fun to play,” Johnson said of the playoffs. “The girls came out and we performed well at times tonight. We still have things to work on. We went through a little bit of a bumpy stretch in the second set and, even in the third set. It was just our doing some things that were out of character for us with those unforced errors.

“I told our girls, though, that I was proud of them for sticking in there. There is pressure on both teams now; if you lose one game, you’re done. I was proud of our girls for their effort, especially down the stretch.”


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