Vike Netters Fall in Battle for First
Vikings Volleyball at Overhills
Union Pines dropped a four-set volleyball match to Overhills, in a clash atop the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference standings, Tuesday in Spring Lake. Photos by Philip Taylor
Ultimately, the Union Pines volleyball team played with fire one too many times, and finally got burnt.
A substandard first-set performance from the visiting Vikings eventually led to a 3-1 victory by the Overhills Jaguars in a clash atop the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference standings Tuesday in Lillington.
Over the past several weeks, Union Pines has displayed a tendency to come out flat in the first set of big matches
Up until Tuesday’s match, the Vikings had been able to overcome the negative habit as they claimed two victories against Pinecrest despite dropping the first set in each contest. In fact, Union Pines dropped the opening game in its 3-1 home victory over Overhills earlier this season.
Union Pines entered the rematch with a 15-1 overall record and in a three-way tie for first place in the CFVC with a league mark of 6-1.
Once the match started, the team’s play barely reflected its stellar record. Overhills overpowered and outhustled the Vikes on its way to claiming a 25-15 win in set two after taking the first set 25-21.
“You simply cannot wait until game three in a first-place match to start playing,” said Union Pines head coach Leslie Fish. “This has been a theme for our team — flat, slow starts in big matches — and you can’t do that against a team like Overhills and hope to win.”
The Vikings did mount a serious rally.
Union Pines took advantage of some sloppy play by the home team early on in set three to build a 12-7 lead. Later, with the Vikes clinging to a 15-13 edge, senior libero Lexi Byrd went on a seven-point service run that eventually amounted to the Union Pines taking the set by a 25-16 tally.
The fourth and final set was a roller coaster from start to finish. After trailing 8-3 early, Byrd registered a four-point service run that she soon followed with an assist on a Brittany Erickson kill. One point later the set was tied at 9-all.
From there Vike senior captain Morgan Bridgers tallied a kill, set up senior Anna Sadler for two kills and found fellow senior captain Crystal Hicks for another as Union Pines took a 16-11 lead.
Down the stretch Overhills surged, but a service ace from Hicks gave the Vikings a set point, at 24-23. After an Overhills timeout, the Jags took the final three points at the net — notching two kills and a block — to win the set 26-24 and the match.
“Just looking at this match, they (the Jaguars) get their hands on a lot of balls,” said Fish. “When you are going against a team like that, you have to be more aggressive than we were tonight. You can’t beat a team of this caliber just sending free balls — that is what it basically boils down to — we just free-balled it back and they just kept hitting it on us and made us pay.”
Throughout the match, Overhills excelled at keeping the ball in the air. Whether it was tipped blocks at the net, lunging saves down both side lines or deep baseline digs, Overhills repeatedly kept the ball in play until it had a chance to attack.
Leading the Jags in digs with 17 was Julie Larsen, who had a marvelous all-around outing with 14 kills, three blocks and two aces.
Andrea Mewhinney finished with 26 assists and 11 digs on the night for Overhills, while Erin Elliot had nine assists and seven kills. Brittani Jefferson provided the Jags with a formidable presence in the middle, as she tallied 11 kills and seven blocks to go along with two aces.
Bridgers had 23 assists and four kills for Union Pines, while Byrd totaled 13 digs and three aces. Sadler led the Vikes with 10 kills. Hicks had seven kills, five digs and two aces, while Kelsey Troyer was credited with six kills for the Vikings.
With the 21-25, 15-25, 25-16 and 24-26 loss, Union Pines fell to 15-2 on the season and out of a tie for the top spot in the league at 6-2 in CFVC play.
Overhills (12-2, 7-1 CFVC) remained tied for first in the league standings with the Western Harnett Eagles. The two teams squared off Thursday in a tilt for sole possession of the top spot in the conference.
The Vikings, who topped Western Harnett in a five-set match earlier this season at Union Pines, returned to CFVC action Thursday in a home match against Gray’s Creek.
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