Vike Netters Come Oh-So-Close
Just before the second set of Tuesday’s 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference girls’ volleyball tournament final, Union Pines was exactly in the place they had strived for so long to reach.
The Vikings switched sides for the start of the second set of the title tilt at Bob Ward Gymnasium in Cameron — a mere two wins away from turning yearlong goals into realities — after opening the match with a 25-18 victory over archrival Western Harnett.
Two Union Pines wins over the next four sets from there would have earned them the tournament crown on their home floor and the conference’s top playoff seed.
Somehow, somewhere, however, the stars in the mid-October sky were not aligned for the homestanding and top-seeded Vikes, as they proceeded to drop three sets in succession to the second-seeded Eagles.
CFVC Tourney Final: UPHS vs Western Harnett
Union Pines lost the volleyball league tournament title match to the Eagles Tuesday at Bob Ward Gymnasium in Cameron. The Vikings hosted the final two rounds of the tourney, topping Southern Lee earlier in the evening to reach the championship contest. Photos by Philip Taylor
“This was another case of the girls just waiting too late to play,” coach Leslie Fish said. “The same thing happened in our first loss of the season against Overhills. By the time they decided they were going to start playing, the score was 20-11 in the final set, and that is just too late. You cannot do that and expect to win, when you are playing for a number one spot — you just can’t do it.”
The 25-17, 22-25, 23-25, 21-25 loss by Union Pines was only its third of the season. With an overall record of 21-3, the Vikings must bounce back from the disappointing result in quick fashion.
The Vikes begin postseason play tonight in Cameron at 6:30.
As the league’s second seed, Union Pines entertains the Williams Bulldogs (16-4, Mid-State Conference third seed) in the opening round of the 3-A state volleyball playoffs.
Union Pines finished with a record of 10-2 in the league standings, which landed them in a three-way tie with Western Harnett (19-7) and Overhills for first place.
While each team claimed a share of the regular season championship, a representative from each school drew straws to determine seeding priority in the league tournament. Ultimately, Union Pines turned out to be the longest, as it received a bye into the second day of the tournament.
Western Harnett hosted the opening round Monday and topped Westover, while third-seeded Overhills bested Douglas Byrd. In the other first-day match, fifth-seeded Southern Lee upset fourth-seeded Gray’s Creek.
Union Pines began Tuesday’s semifinals by knocking off Southern Lee 25-8, 25-16 and 25-20. Meanwhile, Western Harnett earned its berth in the championship game by defeating Overhills 25-21, 17-25, 25-16 and 25-17.
The tournament win over Union Pines Tuesday marked the second time the Eagles have defeated Union Pines this season. Just one week prior, the Vikes prevailed against Western Harnett, on the Eagles’ senior night in Lillington.
In that battle, Union Pines claimed a 25-15, 25-17 and 25-20 triumph. By prevailing in the must-win match, the Vikings denied their league foe an outright claim to the regular season crown, while moving into a three-way tie atop the league standings.
It was the Eagles who dealt the Vikes their first loss of the season, as Union Pines dropped a four-set tilt on its home floor and saw an 11-game win streak snapped at the time.
In Tuesday’s winner-take-all rubber match, Union Pines withstood a staggering 10-kill performance by Eagle senior middle hitter Marlee BigCrow to claim the opening set 25-18.
From there the Vikes competed well enough over the next two sets, but could never sustain a lead late in either contest.
Then the bottom fell out for the Vikings. Western’s Meredith Randolph opened the fourth set on serve and rattled off six straight points. The Eagles soon pushed the margin to 12-4, prompting Fish to call the first of two timeouts.
After the brief break, the Vikings mounted a mini-run to cut the Eagles’ lead to 13-8, but Western then took a timeout of its own and returned to the floor, where it took a commanding 20-11 lead.
BigCrow completely dominated throughout the final, finishing with 27 kills, nine digs, three blocks and two aces. Randolph lead Western with 12 digs, while Jessica Phillips had a team-high 16 assists.
Vike senior captain Morgan Bridgers also put on a special display, tallying 38 assists, five kills and seven digs, and three aces in the championship match. Sophomore Tiffany Hicks had 11 kills, and her older sister, senior captain Crystal, finished with 10, as did Zazil Porras. Kelsey Troyer had eight kills for Union Pines, while Brittany Erickson led the squad with 14 digs.
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