Viking Netters Falls to Western Harnett
After starting the year with five straight wins, the Union Pines volleyball team has run into a recent tough stretch.
The Lady Vikings dropped a Cape Fear Valley Conference match to Western Harnett Thursday in Cameron, falling to 6-4 on the year. With the loss, Union Pines is 1-2 in league play and 1-4 over its last five contests.
One reason for the recent struggles has been the absence of starting right hitter Tyler Ross. The Vike sophomore was among the team leaders in kills and blocks before an injury, which saw her miss three straight matches and play a limited amount of time in the Thursday's match against Western Harnett.
"We are not real sure about Tyler's status right now," Viking head coach Leslie Fish said. "She has been having problems with her (left) shoulder and had an MRI on Wednesday, so we will find out soon from the doctors."
Union Pines is also a relatively young team with no seniors, eight juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen on the roster. The Vikes' starting six Thursday consisted of four juniors, a sophomore and freshman. That unit faced a tall and tough Western Harnett team with several seniors in key positions.
After dropping the first set 25-20, Union Pines answered by taking the second set 25-23. Junior Crystal Hicks came up huge in that game tallying five kills, four digs and two blocks. She added another three kills, two digs and a block in the third set, which the Vikings lost 25-20.
"Communication was one area that we struggled with tonight along with our defensive positioning," Fish said after Thursday's match. "As a result, the biggest thing that beat us was our serve-receive. Almost every server Western had was an aggressive, hard, jump-server and that was what really got us."
Nevertheless, Union Pines jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the fourth game and seemed poised to force a deciding fifth set. But the Vikings made several costly serving errors that allowed Western Harnett back into the game. Union Pines held its last lead at 17-16 before Western won eight of the next nine points on its way to the four-set victory.
"The girls are definitely competing, but lately we have been getting ahead and losing the lead," said Fish. "So now we have to get over that hump and learn how to finish. That is why we have been stressing focus and trying to figure out a how to put games away when we have the chance. We are working on that and will continue to do so as the season moves on."
Hicks finished with a strong night on the stat sheet for the Vikings. She had 12 kills, nine digs and four blocks in the match.
"Crystal is just so tough," said Fish. "She has been steady all year for us and tonight she was competing with all she had to try and get us a win."
Morgan Bridgers, Union Pines' other junior captain, had a match-high 17 assists in the tilt, while freshman Tiffany Hicks had four kills and six blocks. Sophomore Zazil Porras continued her fine play off the bench on Thursday, tallying five digs, three kills and three blocks. Lexi Byrd led the Vikes with 11 digs.
Union Pines is back in action against CFV league opponent Westover in Cameron on Tuesday.
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com.
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