Viking Volleyball Outlasts Overhills in Five Games
The Lady Viking volleyball team prevailed in an intense five set battle with the Overhills Jaguars, Thursday at Union Pines, claiming a victory in their Cape Fear Valley (CFV) conference opener.
The final match tally was 25-21, 21-25, 25-15, 13-25, 15-12 as the Vikes moved to 1-0 to start their 2009 league campaign and improved their overall record to 2-6.
"This season has been one big roller coaster," said Union Pines' head coach Leslie Fish. "It has been up and down, up and down. So before Wednesday's practice I challenged the girls to perform in a way that was consistent with the goals they have set and things they want to accomplish together as a team this year.
"Today was a really tough match but they rose to the challenge and I am just proud of them."
Union Pines held a 2-1 advantage as the match moved to the fourth game. Coming out fresh off a convincing 25-15 win in game three, the Lady Vikes seemed poised to put the Jags away. However with the score tied at 8-all, Overhills mounted a major offensive by scoring 10 of the next 11 points on its way to taking an 18-9 advantage. Union Pines offered a brief response to cut the margin to 19-12 but then faltered, as the energized Jaguars closed out the game with a 6-1 run.
Vike Sophomore Morgan Bridgers finished the night with 25 assists, as she set up freshman teammate Tyler Ross for several of her game-high 20 kills.
"Our season started out pretty rough," said Bridgers, "but we have been working really hard in practice. When Overhills made that run to come out and take game four, it just made us want it even more. So it felt really good to pull together as a one and get this win."
Four games into Union Pines' pre-conference schedule, the Vikes were 0-4 after twice losing to the O'Neal Falcons (a top-ranked 2A NCIHSAA team). They also suffered defeats to both Pinecrest and Purnell Swett (two strong 4A schools). As a young squad both in terms of age and experience, the Vikes showed true signs of talent and potential in all those tilts, but were seemed unable to win points at critical times to stop runs or finish off games where they held leads.
Union Pines then traveled to Pinecrest for their fifth match of the year, where the Vikings prevailed in stunning fashion to earn a three-game sweep in the intra-county rivalry. The victory seemed to hold with it the promise that the young Vikes had gotten over the hump. However, they then dropped back to back matches against 1A North Moore and Purnell Swett.
Senior captain Katie McKenzie, who had 21 digs in the Vikings' season opening win against Overhills, put Wednesday's victory in perspective after the match.
"We have been really down on ourselves over the past few games," McKenzie stated, "because we had not played well since we beat the Patriots at Pinecrest. Tonight I think we really came together, finally realized our potential and now I think we are going to have a really good season."
Five of McKenzie's game-high digs came in the final set tiebreaker, as she laid completely out three times in a two-point stretch to help keep momentum on the side of Union Pines.
Fish felt that McKenzie's final set performance was the deciding factor in the contest.
"Once we lost game four, I knew it was going to be a dogfight," said Fish. "Tonight the girls impressed me with the mental toughness and motivation they displayed and it seems like all the hard work is starting to really pay off.
"While talking to my team in the huddle after the match, I said, 'if Katie (McKenzie) would not have dug for those three balls down the stretch, you probably would have gotten beat; that is a competitor, that is senior leadership right there and that is what won the match for you all.'"
Sophomore Crystal Hicks, who has been a consistent performer for Union Pines throughout the season, had 13 kills and 12 digs to aid the Lady Viking cause.
"We never lost focus but all stuck together," Hicks said, "and just kept pumping each other up and keeping our energy high in order to stop the momentum Overhills had coming into the final set. It is really rewarding to know in the end we were able to pull it out and now this feels like a fresh start for us as team."
The Vikes are scheduled to play three consecutive matches this week, starting Tuesday as they travel to Hope Mills to take on the Gray's Creek Bears in a CFV match. Then Union Pines' cross-county rival North Moore comes to Cameron on Wednesday. Finally the Vikings finish out the week with another league match, Thursday in Lillington, where they will tangle with CFV rival Western Harnett.
Contact F.W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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