Dixon ends Eagle's season in five games
By David Williams
Published in Sports on October 27, 2004 1:57 PM
Volleyball games do not usually follow scripts better suited to boxing matches.
But Tuesday's N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A opening-round playoff match between Dixon and homestanding Rose-wood followed a plot right out of a 1940s fighter movie.
Punch. Rosewood's powerful front line anchored the Eagles to a quick 2-0 lead.
Counterpunch. Dixon's quick, accurate hitters find the gaps in the Rosewood defense and storm back to take the next two games and even the match.
In the fifth set, Dixon gets two quick points from a 13-13 tie and upsets the Eagles 15-13 to win the match.
Dixon, the number two seed from the Coastal Plain Conference, knocked off the Eagles 21-25, 18-25, 25-12, 25-23, 15-13 to move to the second round, a matchup with either Super Six champion Union or Durham School of the Arts.
The game opened with some early mental mistakes on both sides, with balls going into the net and kill attempts skittering lone and wide of the lines. Rosewood's net play setting the pace. Jessica Hill, Morgan Wheeler and Hannah Aycock proved solid at the net, pacing Rosewood out to a 10-5 lead on a nice scoring run from the service line by Katy Morris. Dixon cut the lead to on at 18-17 but never got back even as the Eagles closed out the Bulldogs on a block by Hill at the net and an ace from Kelli Gurley for the 25-231 win.
Game two was a lot tougher, although Hill and Wheeler got swinging with some big kills over the shorter Bulldogs. The match was tied nine times. Dixon struggled to put a ball away as Brooke Goff came to the service line at 20-18 and served out the game. Wheeler had a big ill and a block down the stretch and Hill sealed the game on another booming kill.
Down 2-0, Dixon had to regroup and focused on better serving and better shot selection on the put-away. Dixon Coach Faye Hall picked the right combination to stress to her team.
"I told the girls to keep playing hard," she said. "She (Hill) was an awesome hitter and I told the girls, 'whatever you do, you've just got to get up there and get a hand up.' The serving in game three, I thought, turned the match for us. That hurt us in the first two games. One of our strengths is serving, and when they finally started doing it like they knew how, the points were important for us."
Dixon took a short lead to open game three, them blew the game open when Kameron Padgett went to the service line and rattled off 11 straight points to take an 18-5 lead. Alexa McMurtrey was important to Dixon in the run, finding holes on cross-court kills and working her way around the bigger Rosewood blockers. Dixon breezed to the 25-12 win and had stopped the Eagle steamroller. Magan Pousock was also important for the Bulldogs in her blocking and her attack.
"They started to hit the corners," said Rosewood coach Jennifer Cochran. "I think that when we got behind we didn't place good. When that happens, we go downhill and don't play together. They picked up our holes and did a nice job coming back filling up their holes. I thought they showed a lot of heart."
The fourth game opened in the same pattern as Dixon took a quick 7-4 lead and blossomed it to 12-5 on the strength of Padgett's serving and some Eagle miscues. Rosewood began to reel the Bulldogs in as Kasey Grey served the Eagles back to within five points, then to within two as Wheeler, Aycock and Hill dueled with Pousock, McMurtrey and Brittany Lewis between the strings. Dixon finally got the Eagles to 24-20 and held on for the 25-23 win.
The fifth game proved as tight as the second, with eight ties. Rosewood skipped out to a 6-2 lead, only to have Dixon rally to tie the match at 6-6. The two teams traded one-point leads as the crowd sensed a tight finish.
Finally, at 13-13, Dixon made the decisive move. Allison Fisher came up with a big block to take a 14-13 lead, then Pousock shot a kill through a block that found the floor on the far side for the game-winner.
"We played an unbelievable team, and were very fortunate to come out with a win," said Hall.
"That fifth game could have gone either way," said Cochran. "Just whichever way the ball rolled. It just didn't roll our way. I don't think we did anything to be ashamed of. We just kind of let them creep in there and get the momentum back -- and that's volleyball."
The game marked the end of the prep careers for seniors Hill, Wheeler, Aycock and Morris. The Eagles ended the season at 17-7.
"We had a good season," said Cochran. "They need to keep their heads up high."
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