Keeping the Dream Alive
The Union Pines volleyball team’s yearlong dream of capturing the 2011 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference regular season championship is still alive.
In a must-win match, the Vikings played the role of spoiler Thursday on senior night in Lillington, claiming a 25-15, 25-17 and 25-20 victory over their archrival Western Harnett Eagles.
Viking Volleyball at Western Harnett
In a must-win match, Union Pines played the role of spoiler Thursday on senior night in Lillington, claiming a 25-15, 25-17 and 25-20 victory over their archrival Western Harnett Eagles. With the win the Vikes moved into a three-way tie atop the league standings. Photos by Philip Taylor.
“We knew we had to win tonight,” said Viking senior defensive specialist Lexi Byrd.
Byrd led Union Pines on the night with 14 digs.
“For all the seniors, we have never beaten them (Eagles) here,” she said. “I am not sure that we have ever even beaten them since we have been playing either, so this was a really important moment for our season and for us as a team.”
With the win, Union Pines improved to 19-2 on the season and 9-2 in league play, while moving back into a three-way tie for first place atop the conference standings with Western Harnett and Overhills for a second time this year.
Atypically the Vikings came out blazing early. Union Pines powered its way to a dominating first-set win, in which sophomore middle hitter Tiffany Hicks tallied five kills and senior captain Morgan Bridgers registered eight assists.
“I am tremendously proud of my girls,” said Union Pines head coach Leslie Fish. “For the first time all season, they actually did not start flat tonight. Instead they kept up their intensity throughout the match and got the job done in three sets.”
Union Pines dropped the first set in both of its losses this season and had to battle back twice from first-set losses to capture victories against cross-county rival Pinecrest.
Set two was again the Bridgers and Hicks show, with Bridgers tallying nine assists and Hicks collecting two blocks and six kills.
On the night, Hicks had 14 kills and four blocks, while Bridgers finished the match with 27 assists, six kills and two aces.
“For the past two weeks we have been playing out of a new lineup which we call the ‘Western Harnett’ lineup,” Fish said, “because that was the way we wanted to play them.”
After dropping a tough four-set match to Overhills to fall from first place in the league standings, Fish made junior outside hitter Brittany Erickson the new libero, which allowed her to place junior right-side hitter Kelsey Troyer back to her natural position of outside hitter.
“After watching film we realized that Western does not block much on the outside so we wanted to move one of our bigger girls (in Kelsey Troyer) out there to get better swings,” Fish said. “I felt like both moves paid off because Brittany helped us out as the libero by playing awesome on the back row, and Kelsey came up huge as well and kept her composure.”
Troyer helped Hicks in the middle as the pair worked with senior captain (and Tiffany’s older sister) Crystal Hicks to stifle the Eagles interior attack at the net. After the match, Troyer spoke about playing her natural position.
“Oh, my, goodness this is so exciting,” Troyer said, “we came in here looking for the win and we made it happen. It felt great to be back in the middle.”
The Viking junior finished with six kills and three blocks on the night back in her natural position on the court.
“I used to block all the time on junior varsity,” added Troyer, “and we needed double blocking tonight, so it was awesome to be out there and have some success. We’ve been practicing a while on double-blocking, so we could get my timing right, and it felt great to come through with some blocks and help my team.”
In set three, Vike veterans Bridgers and Crystal Hicks helped their squad steady the ship and fight off a final flurry from the Eagles.
Western Harnett held leads of 7-3 and 18-16. However, the elder Hicks scored the final four points for Union Pines — all on kills. On the night, she finished with 10 kills, five digs and two blocks. In turn, Bridgers had two kills and 10 assists in the final set.
Union Pines returns to action Thursday, when the Vikes close out their 2011 regular-season CFVC campaign with a senior night league match against Westover at 6:30 p.m. in Cameron.
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com
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