Patriots Knock Off Undefeated Pine Forest in Volleyball Playoffs
Tuesday was not just a good day, but a very, very, good one for the Pinecrest volleyball team.
Not only did the Patriots (24-3) advance to the third round of the 4-A state playoffs by knocking off previously undefeated Pine Forest 25-18, 14-25, 25-22 and 25-13, but they gained a 6 p.m. home match on Thursday. That came about when Garner, a No. 1 seed, was upset in four games by Wilmington Ashley (18-5).
The victory over Pine Forest in Fayetteville was accomplished with as strong a blocking performance as coach Barbara Foxx has seen from a Patriot team in a long time. Six-foot Felicia Painter, and 6-3 Janea Williams, finished with 10 and eight blocks, respectively, against the shorter, but athletic Trojans.
Williams also contributed a dozen kills. Painter had 11 and Amber Goodwin had 10. Megan Thomas was credited with 38 assists and served for 14 points. Libero Keegan Lynch recorded 12 digs.
“Blocking wasn’t our strong point the whole season,” Painter said afterward. “Yesterday we spent a half-hour of practice on foot work and technique. It paid off because they have good hitters. It took good blocking to shut them down.”
The home team was so flat in the first set that it was unable to take full advantage of five Patriot service errors. The Patriots returned the favor in the one-sided second game loss when Shirlee Evans and Jayde Jacobs went on a fierce hitting spree, helping the Trojans draw even at 1-1.
“We heard they were an undefeated team in a conference with Jack Britt and figured they would be a high-caliber team,” Painter said. “And we didn’t have a problem beating them. I think we came out a little too cocky in the second game and they took advantage of that.”
The Patriots began taking control of the net in a third set that featured spectacular volleys. They broke out to a 9-1 advantage with Olivia McKinney and Thomas on the service line. When the Trojans began creeping back into it, middle blocker Goodwin put the ball down three times, increasing the margin to 13-6. Later she helped nip another Trojan charge with a kill for the 25th point and a 2-1 Patriot lead.
“Well, I’m a senior, and I didn’t want it to be my last game,” she said. “So I was glad I could be a part of keeping the team up.”
Added Foxx, “Amber had a real good night. The others were hitting, but Pine Forest was digging. They weren’t digging Amber. I think that pumped everybody up.”
Goodwin, Williams, Painter and Mary Grace Phipps racked up kills as the fourth set turned to the visitors in a big way. It also included long service runs by Thomas and McKinney. Katie Smith set up Williams for the kill that concluded the match.
The improved blocking couldn’t be coming at a better time as the teams remaining in the playoffs whittle down to the best of the best. Eight teams are alive in the upper bracket, including undefeated Scotland High, a potential fourth-round opponent for Pinecrest on Saturday.
“We’re big enough to block, but we just hadn’t been doing a good enough job,” Foxx said. “Tonight we got our hands on the ball a lot. Felicia with 10 and Janea with eight — that’s a lot of blocks. Our net play made a difference because it stopped them (Trojans) from putting the ball down on our side.”
Pinecrest and Ashley have one common opponent. The Patriots defeated Laney 3-1 and the Eagles beat them twice by 3-1 in Mideastern Conference play. The Eagles and J.H. Rose tied for first place with 9-1 records.
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