U.P. Netters Earn Big CFVC Win
The Union Pines volleyball team started the second leg of its Cape Fear Valley Conference campaign with a four-set victory at home against the Overhills Jaguars Tuesday.
It was the fourth-straight league win for Union Pines as the Vikings improved to 10-5 overall and moved into a tie for second place with Overhills at 5-2 in CFVC play. Western Harnett is still alone atop the CFVC standings with a conference mark of 7-0.
"This was a really important match for us," Viking junior captain Morgan Bridgers said. "We really want to make a run at first-place in our conference and have a home game in the playoffs. After a slight downfall for a stretch, it feels good to pull together as a unit and get a big win."
Bridgers tallied a match-high 26 assists against Overhills (10-4, 5-2). Meanwhile, in a youth movement, the Vikings got big time production from freshman Tiffany Hicks and sophomores Brittany Erikson and Tyler Ross in Tuesday's 25-20, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19 victory.
Hicks, who finished with eight kills and five blocks, experienced her first ever post-game interview after the match.
"This feels really good to beat Overhills," Hicks said, "because they took it to us pretty bad at their place in our first meeting. Tonight, we really played together as a team and started talking more and did a good job of keeping our intensity up throughout the match."
After going through a brief mid-season lull, Erickson had a breakout performance against the Jags. She led Union Pines in serving with six aces along with racking up a team-high 12 digs.
"When we play this well and I can contribute like I did, it is a great feeling," Erickson said. "Especially when my serve is going good like it was in this match and we can pull out a clutch win. It just gives you a big adrenaline rush."
The Vikings led 2-1 after three games, but then fell behind 7-1 early in the fourth set. With the score 13-8 in favor of Overhills, Union Pines went on a 14-3 run to capture a commanding 22-16 edge in the final set.
Union Pines' head coach Leslie Fish felt the way her team responded after being down big in the fourth game showed a great deal about their competitive nature and displayed a growth in maturity.
"They are starting to get that true mental toughness," Fish said, "and last year, I can safely say that we didn't make that comeback. Even a week ago it probably would not happen. So I feel like they have finally become totally committed to the team and are actually out there for each other now.
"Tonight, every one of our girls proved they were dedicated to hustling and communicating. Those are areas we have been stressing all year in practice and they know how crucial those aspects are if we want to have this type of success in big games."
Fish felt that the Vikings' strong service performance along with some strategic adjustments made by assistant coach Emily Frey were the true difference makers in the match.
"We served really well tonight," Fish said, "and only missed five attempts in the whole match. Also, coach Frey did an awesome job of calling for a zone and the girls thrived out of that formation."
Another area Fish felt Union Pines excelled in was net play. Ross, who is still coming off a shoulder injury that forced her to miss four matches, had eight kills, four aces and four blocks. Junior captain Crystal Hicks added five kills and four blocks for the Vikings.
"Tyler, Tiffany and Crystal were all big up front tonight and blocked the ball extremely well as a unit," Fish said, "and Zazil Porras stepped it up for us tonight too."
Porras, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, has six kills and five blocks over her last two games along with five serving aces.
"We have been looking for another outside hitter and I told Zazil that I needed her to play in that spot," said Fish, "so she came through in a huge way for us."
Union Pines was scheduled to be back in CFVC action Thursday against Gray's Creek (4-12, 3-3).
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com.
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