Patriots Advance to Quarterfinals
Pinecrest advanced to the fourth round of the state 4-A volleyball playoffs with a brilliant tiebreaker set performance against Ashley Thursday evening.
The momentum appeared to have gone the visiting Eagles way after they bounced back from dropping the second and third sets by winning the fourth 25-21. The Patriot plan for the 15-point fifth set was a simple one.
“We knew it was the first to eight (points),” senior Janea Williams said after recording 23 kills in the match. “After that we had to give it all we had and not let up. Everyone worked hard and made perfect passes and the attackers just dominated.”
A kill by outside hitter Mary Grace Phipps gave the Patriots their milestone eighth point. The senior connected again, making it 9-5. The 10th point came on a cleverly placed ball by middle blocker Amber Goodwin. A moment later, a smash by Felicia Painter made it 12-9.
It was 14-9 after Painter put the ball down again off the 46th assist of the match by Megan Thomas. The tense contest ended on an attack error by the Eagles.
Shortly after huddling up in the middle of the floor to celebrate the 23-25, 25-14, 25-22, 21-25 and 15-10 victory, a secondary cheer came from the Patriot players. Someone informed them that Hoggard, a third seed, had defeated Scotland High, the No. 1 seed out of the Southeastern Conference and the team that had handed the Patriots their three losses this season, 3-1.
That means a home match for Pinecrest, instead of a trip to Laurinburg, against Hoggard in the round of eight at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
As in Tuesday’s second-round win over previously undefeated Pine Forest, Patriot coach Barbara Foxx got contributions from everyone she put in the game.
“Everybody is picking each other up,” the coach said. “That’s a blessing in itself right there.”
The Patriots led 20-16 in the first set before a period of tentative attacking helped the Eagles’ Brandi Thomas get her powerful swing going. She had five kills down the stretch as the visitors prevailed 25-23.
The home team was in trouble, trailing 11-6 in the second set when the momentum changed. During a five-point service run by Katie Smith, Olivia McKinney came into the match for the first time to notch the kill that put her team in front 12-11.
She put one down again as the Patriots began to build a lead. Two slams in a row by Williams, one off a spectacular dig by Keegan Lynch, made it 18-13. An ace by Thomas completed the momentum changing 25-14 win.
A six-point service run by Lynch, with Phipps and Painter doing most of the hitting, gave the Patriots a big lead in the third set that they held on to take a 2-1 lead.
“Janea and I and all our hitters were on fire,” Painter said. “We got good passes from the back, good sets from Megan and just put the ball down. The energy was so high in the gym tonight.”
The Patriots rallied from a 17-10 deficit to tie the fourth set at 18-18, but led by the hitting of Brandi Thomas and Emery McGee, the Eagles extended the match to the dreaded tiebreaker.
“It was hard,” Lynch said of allowing the Eagles back into it. “We just had to figure out we could do it. We knew we were the better team and we had to keep them down.”
After committing five service errors in the first half of the first set at Pine Forest, the Patriots did not commit a single one in the last three sets against Ashley and only three overall. Thomas was flawless in serving for 16 points, including four aces. Painter, Smith and Lynch each served for 11 points.
“It takes a lot of pressure off you when you get your serves in,” Foxx said.
The Patriots came up big at the net again with Painter recording seven of the team’s 19 blocks to go with 16 kills. Phipps finished with 11 kills and seven digs. Lynch had 20 digs and Smith had eight. Madison Walling served for four points and was another strong contributor in the back.
“I think our confidence is where it should be,” Foxx said. “We’re playing hard and we’re playing together. We look good right now.”
The Patriots take a 25-3 record into the match against Hoggard, 18-6. The Vikings were defeated by Providence in the 2011 championship match. Like Ashley, they are also a member of the Mideastern Conference. For the second year in a row, they handed Scotland High its only loss of the season.
Saturday’s winner will meet either Wakefield (19-4) or Leesville Road (25-0) for the regional title early next week. Providence, Ardrey Kell, Hough and TC Roberson are the teams still alive in the other region.
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