HAMPSTEAD – Make no mistake, the Topsail High School volleyball team is a team with a huge target on its collective backs.
When you have gone unbeaten en route to winning back-to-back conference championship and – with a win at East Duplin on Tuesday – you are now carrying a streak of 33-straight conference wins ( last three games in 2009, unbeaten at 14-0 in 2010 and 2011, and 2-0 this year entering last night’s game) on your resume, opposing conference teams are definitely gunning for you, especially since this is your last year in the conference and it’s a good bet no one wants you to complete a third-straight unbeaten mark.
That’s what the Lady Pirates will face all season long, and that is what they faced on Thursday when the Lady Blue Devils of South Lenoir rolled into Hampstead – bringing with them a somewhat unimpressive 6-5 overall record along with a 1-1 conference record.
But records really don’t matter when the opponent is the team in black and gold, and the Lady Blue Devils tried to emphasize that point on Thursday – fortunately for the Lady Pirates’ faithful – to no avail.
Led once again by the hitting of senior Carlie Smith (18 kills), the setting of senior Angie Poage (38 assists), and behind an off-the bench spark in games two through four by senior Lacey Akerley (3 service points, 6 kills, 1 block, 5 digs) Topsail rallied from a one-game deficit to defeat South Lenoir 3-1 (23-25, 25-10, 25-12, 25-19) on Thursday in an East Central 2A Conference volleyball game at Topsail.
The win leaves the Lady Pirates with an overall record of 8-2 (the losses to 4A Ashley and 1A Pender – which they later avenged), a conference mark of 3-0, and an additional victory on the conference winning streak, which now stands at 34. South Lenoir fell to 6-6 and 1-2 in the conference.
“We did not serve well (missed five serves) and we saw a lot of balls drop during that first game,” Topsail Coach Hill Pearsall said. “I didn’t have to say a lot between the first and second games because the girls knew they had played poorly, and they put the next three games squarely on their own collective backs.
“The next two games we played fantastic. Kayla (sophomore hitter Hyatt) was excellent in the slot and Lacey came off the bench, played well, and gave us a real spark. We got a little lackadaisical in the fourth game and let them stay close. They were doing a good job of placing balls and it took us a while to figure it out.”
The Lady Blue Devils also did a great job of bringing up some voracious Topsail hits on the back line, and it seemed – on occasion – too stun the Lady Pirates’ hitters, forcing eight hitting mistakes to go along with five player-in-the-net calls against Topsail’s front-line players in the first game alone.
Still, the two teams played close throughout that first contest until South Lenoir took over the service trailing 23-20. Kills by Mattie Beyer and Caroline Jones and an ace from Taylor Sandlin tied the score at 23-23. Topsail’s fifth player-in-net call gave the Lady Blue Devils the lead at 24-23 and a ball hit into the net by Topsail gave South Lenoir a 25-23 win.
That seemed to upset the Lady Pirates and they came out with a vengeance in the second game. Down 1-0 Topsail got the serve and, behind a pair of aces from Summer Darnell, a block by Smith, and a kill by Akerley, didn’t turn it back until it was 5-1. It was 9-4 when Reagan Holloway went on service for Topsail and it was 15-4 when she relinquished it thanks to two kills and a block in the run by Hyatt.
Smith went on serve at 21-10 and spotted two aces to go along with a kill by Akerley and a ball out of bounds by South Lenoir to wrap up the win and tie the match at 1-1.
Topsail started off strong in the third game with Smith knocking down a pair of kills and “Shoeless: Summer Darnell (her shoe came off as she went up) knocking down a barefoot kill in igniting a five-point run to give the Lady Pirates a lead they would never relinquish. The Lady Blue Devils were unable to put together anything longer that a two-point run the rest of the way and Topsail closed out the win with kills by Hyatt and Reagan.
The fourth game proved to be more interesting as the two squads forged ties at 4-4, 6-6, 8-8, and 13-13 before South Lenoir moved in front late at 18-16. Poage went on serve at that point and a kill by Smith and a South Lenoir hitting error tied the match for a fifth time at 18-18. A kill by Darnell was followed by a pair of aces from Poage, a block from Smith, and another kill by Darnell as Topsail jumped out to a 24-18 lead.
A kill by South Lenoir’s Jones brought the serve back to the Lady Blue Devils’ side but the resurrection was short-lived as a kill by Akerley ended the game – and the match.
In a somewhat unusual – and lopsided – statistic, especially for Topsail, Lady Pirates were whistled for 10 player-in-the-net calls to just one for South Lenoir.
The usually solid Topsail junior-varsity team had a tough night, dropping a 2-1 (14-25, 25-22, 18-25) decision to south Lenoir. The junior-varsity team is now 9-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
Topsail is on the road on Monday for a 4:30 p.m. (JV‘s) non-conference start at 4A Laney. The Lady Pirates head to Clinton (0-7, -0-3) on Tuesday for a conference match against the Lady Dark Horsed before returning home to take on Croatan (3-3, 1-1) in another conference tilt on Thursday.
S. Lenoir 25-10-12-19
Topsail: Carlie Smith 11 points, 4 aces, 18 kills, 5 blocks, 8 digs; Summer Darnell 11 points, 3 blocks, 5 kills, 5 digs; Reagan Holloway 7 points, 1 ace, 4 kills, 12 digs; Kayla Hyatt 4 points, 6 blocks, 8 kills, 1 ace, 11 digs; Chandler Skipper 1 kill, 14 digs; Angie Poage 19 points, 38 assists, 3 aces, 1 kill, 14 digs; Sarah Woodward 1 kill, 3 digs; Lacey Akerley 3 points, 6 kills, 1 block, 5 digs.
S. Lenoir: Madison Herring 1 kill; Caroline Jones 7 kills, 1 block; Rachel Dawson 9 kills; Demeyia Adams 4 kills, 1 block; Whitney Graves 1 ace; Mattie Beyer 1 kill; Taylor Sandlin 2 aces, 2 kills; Bree Williams 1 kill; Maecy Croon 1 kill, 1 ace.