Vikes Get Big Win in Volleyball
Last Thursday, after Union Pines completed a two-win week to improve to 4-2 in the Cape Fear Valley (CFV) conference standings, Viking head volleyball coach Leslie Fish still felt her team needed a victory in a big game to actually arrive as legitimate contenders for the league crown.
It did not take long for Union Pines to deliver.
Tuesday in Spring Lake, the Vikes officially announced their arrival to the rest of the teams in the CFV with a critical five-set conference win against the homestanding Overhills Jaguars, improving their conference record to 5-2 in the process.
The final match tally was 17-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 15-9 in favor of the Vikings.
"This was a big win for us," Fish said, "especially considering the fight Overhills put forth in our first match and tonight. So this game was huge, just like our next two are (going to be) huge, because they will go a long way in determining the regular season conference seeding."
For the second time this season, the Jags took Union Pines to the limit on Tuesday.
During the two teams' first tangle in Cameron, Overhills fell behind 2-1 only to breeze to a fourth-set win and force a fifth game to settle the match. Ultimately, the Vikes would overcome an early surge by the Jags in the final set to prevail in the CFV conference opener for both schools.
In Tuesday's tilt, it was Overhills that took the upper hand with wins in games one and three (both by scores of 25-17). The Vikes did manage to squeak out the second game 25-22. However, as the match entered the fourth set, all signs seemed to point in favor of the Jaguars. Brittany McCoy had 14 kills and six blocks through three games for Overhills, leading a solid effort from the Jags, who had controlled the middle with dominate net play and neutralized the Vikings' usually potent serving offense.
"Overhills had a bunch of big blocks tonight," said Fish. "This team has several talented hitters and during practice we talked a lot about how their strength was their middle hitters and blocking ability. So we prepared for that by working on coverage, but midway through the match they switched things up by positioning their top hitters to the outside. So in game five we were able to push the ball deep and, as a result, Crystal Hicks got some big kills for us."
With the Vikes down 14-10 in game four, it appeared as if Overhills would exact revenge from its early-season loss in Cameron, but then the Vikes somehow managed to turn up the intensity and focus. Spurred on by senior Katie McKenzie and sophomores Hicks and Morgan Bridgers, Union Pines took 11 of the next 14 points to build a 21-17 lead. In the set, Hicks had six digs and three late kills, McKenzie tallied three kills and three digs, and Bridgers finished with six assists, as Union Pines won 25-20.
The score was tied at 6-all in the fifth and deciding game when the Vikings won five of the next six points, including four service points by Hicks. The run gave Union Pines an 11-7 lead, which it preserved to take the set 15-9, win the match and earn a regular season sweep over the Jags.
After the match Hicks was most pleased with the way the Vikings fought back to win together as a group.
"Coming in here, we knew this was a very big match," Hicks said, "and that a win would put us high up in the conference (standings), so we pretty much had to pull together as a team and play with heart.
"When the game was on the line, I really feel like my teammates all showed a great deal of heart. Also we all did a good job of communicating and being where we were supposed to be on the court. We have been in lots of tough five-set matches already this season and take pride in never giving in until the match is over."
In the final game, Hicks had four kills and three digs to go along with her four service points. She finished the night with 22 digs and 15 kills. Vike freshman Tyler Ross tallied 13 kills and nine digs on the night, while McKenzie finished with eight kills and 17 digs.
Bridgers had a match-high 21 assists for Union Pines, (12 of which came in games four and five), to go along with six kills and 10 digs.
"To start the second half of our league schedule with a win like this feels really good," Bridgers said. "We want to place high in the final conference standings and do the best we possible can. So it is great that we have finally started to pick things up here lately. We seem to be bringing our best effort out every match and that's what we want to keep doing so we can really play to our full potential."
McCoy led Overhills (3-4 in CFV play) on the evening with a match-high 19 kills, while Andi Mewhinney led the Jags with 27 digs.
Union Pines will try to make it four straight conference wins Thursday in Hope Mills when it takes on Gray's Creek at 6 p.m.
Contact F.W. Manning at 639-5481 or by e-mail at email@example.com
More like this story