Volleyball falls just short

Published 2:36 am Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Although Davie’s varsity volleyball team suffered its third loss in a row at East Surry, this was not a step backward.

Amber Brandon, who never experienced a three-match slide in her first seven years as Davie’s coach, always lines up ferocious nonconference opponents to get the War Eagles ready for the Central Piedmont Conference. The Cardinals are a 2-A juggernaut – they went 138-21 from 2016-21, finishing as state runner-up in 2019 and marching to the state semifinals in 2018 and 2021 – and Davie put up a valiant fight in 3-2 defeat on Aug. 22.

The scores were 20-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-22, 5-15.

It was a bittersweet ending in Pilot Mountain because of Davie played so well after an uninspired start (down 21-10 in the first set).

“There were some really good moments in that match,” Brandon said. “We had really struggled in serve-receive up until this point. We looked a lot better. Emily Garner had a really good game. She really stepped up. She was kind of the glue that held it together after we lost the third set.”

The match was 1-1 with Davie leading 24-23 in the third set. A hit by East’s star, junior Bella Hutchens, appeared to hit the antenna, which would have clinched the set and given Davie a 2-1 lead. The officials did not see it that way, and East rallied for a 25-23 win. That was obviously a big swing in the match.

“(Hutchens) is definitely in the likes of a kid like (East Forsyth graduate) Kadynce Boothe that we played against the last four years,” Brandon said. “We went in with a good strategy of how we wanted to handle and contain (Hutchens). Part of that was we wanted to block close to the antenna and force her to go crosscourt. She tried to put one down the line, and in my opinion, clear as day, it went into the antenna, so it should have been 25-23 us. It was our bad luck. The ball being turned into the antenna was what we worked for. Our kids did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

Despite the bad break, Davie (2-3) refused to go away, winning the fourth set to keep hope alive.

“I was super proud of our kids,” she said. “We had a rough day on Saturday (in losses to South Iredell and Hough), and I was afraid they would fall apart on me in the fourth – and they didn’t. They fought back. We were in command the whole fourth set. It was frustrating because I thought we should be walking out of here right now with a 3-1 win.”

Unfortunately for Davie, the fifth set was an anticlimax.

“Anything can happen in the fifth set,” she said. “We missed a couple serves early, got stuck in a serve-receive rotation early and had a middle come down with an ankle sprain, which really frazzled our kids. We got in a tailspin.”

Garner was hardly the only War Eagle to shine. Libero Emma Willard played brilliantly.

“She’s fantastic on defense,” Brandon said. “She picked up some balls, especially crosscourt, that Hutchens, who will go play big-time Division-I volleyball, is not used to seeing picked up. We want to win the hustle plays, and she kind of sets the tone for that.”

Then there was Kiah Mathis, Hailey Johnson and Emma Hayes.

“Kiah is our kills leader. She had a good game,” Brandon said. “We knew we had to figure out a way to use Willard and Hailey. Hailey had a really good game (as a defensive specialist). She fills a role in the back row when Emma Hayes is on front row. Emma Hayes had a couple big blocks, stuff blocks, on (Hutchens) and a couple great slow-downs that was really good for her confidence and my confidence.”

East, which lost 3-0 to Reagan, improved to 2-2. This is Davie’s first three-match losing streak since 2014.

JV Loses

Davie’s JV fell to 0-2 with a 2-1 loss to East.

This team is a work in progress under new coach Tabatha Lyons. “The kids are still trying to learn each other on the court,” she said. “We’re really focussing on little details and being disciplined in practice to get ready for (this) week’s conference matches.”

Davie took steps in the right direction against the Cardinals.

“Their communication is getting better,” Lyons said. “We had some moments where we looked really good, especially in sets two and three. I’m still playing with some different lineups, but I think we’re close to figuring out how to be the most successful.”