10/27/04 — Hawks adjust, then move past Vikings

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Hawks adjust, then move past Vikings

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 27, 2004 1:56 PM

LAGRANGE -- A slight blocking change in practice and scrappy defense helped the North Lenoir volleyball team claim its fourth consecutive opening-round victory in postseason play Tuesday evening.

Randi Moulton and Leslie Oliver combined for eight blocks as the Hawks eliminated South Granville 25-19, 25-16, 25-15 from the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A playoffs. North Lenoir travels to First Flight for a second-round match Thursday.

South Granville concluded its season 19-7.

Fourth-year Hawks coach Heather Humphrey didn't have a scouting report on the Vikings, who had 6-foot outside hitter Kathryn Reddick and 5-11 middle hitter A.C. Farabow. Humphrey watched the players during the warm-up session and figured the double-blocking scheme, a new part of the Hawks' defense, would be useful.

Reddick and Farabow never adjusted to the defensive strategy. Each player attempted to power hit through the block instead of using the off-speed hits to stretch the Hawks' defense. Moulton and Oliver recorded four blocks apiece. Shannon Plymouth provided three -- all in the opening game against Reddick.

The trio dominated the net and moved well against the Vikings' middle-hit attack. Farabow and Reddick attempted a few shots down the side and toward the back line, but the Hawks received solid defensive play from Lauren Hudson, Rachel Cromer, Brittany Sanders and Emily Brown.

Cromer added two blocks and the Hawks collected 42 digs defensively.

"We did a good job blocking," Humphrey said. "We've been working on a double block and the girls came together and stopped Reddick a couple of times. I think that backed her off the net a little bit.

"We became more aggressive at the net."

The early success aided the Hawks' overall confidence. They shook off some first-game errors and grabbed the momentum on the hitting of Oliver and Plymouth. The duo combined for six kills in the 25-19 win.

Moulton's block against Stephanie Brummitt and kill after a Cromer block ignited an early run for the Hawks in the second game. South Granville climbed within 9-8 on a questionable net violation, but Moulton answered with an off-speed kill just inside the three-foot line.

Sanders' kill off Chanee Lynch's assist -- one of 34 in the three-set match -- gave North Lenoir its biggest lead at 21-13. The Vikings pulled within 22-16, but got no closer. Moulton delivered another kill and the visitors committed back-to-back hitting errors to end the game.

Humphrey couldn't have been more pleased with her team's passing game.

"We work on passing all the time," she said. "That's where it all starts. You've got to have a good pass to have a good set."

South Granville struggled in its passing game and gave setters Brummitt and Ashley Kelley little opportunity to run their offense. Farrabow and Reddick combined for 17 kills, but could never develop a significant run against North Lenoir.

Moulton connected on three kills and one block in the early stages of the final game. Cromer contributed a kill and a block, while Oliver added a kill in an 8-2 surge.

The Vikings never threatened.

Moulton finished with 12 kills and eight digs. Oliver chipped in five kills, including match point, and 12 digs. Plymouth added seven kills.

"I told them yesterday in practice that it's do or die," said Humphrey, whose all-time playoff record is 5-3. "They said 'gee coach, that's a lot of pressure on us.'

"Well, it's the truth. To begin with, they were a little tense, but once we got a couple of points ahead, they loosened up. They had fun out there and when they do that, they play so much better."

North Lenoir (23-1) picked up its fourth playoff win in its last five tries.