North Lenoir's volleyball playoff run ends
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on October 31, 2004 2:00 AM
LAGRANGE -- Cedar Ridge middle hitter Taneesha Stephenson took a perfect set from Kennedy Wolfe and quickly pounded her 18th kill to seal the fourth set and match for the Red Wolves.
Unfortunately for North Lenoir's volleyball team, the scene was all too familiar Saturday evening at Wooten Gymnasium as the Mid-State Conference's top seed defeated the Hawks 25-19, 18-25, 25-16, 25-8 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Eastern Semifinals.
The Hawks never consistently found an answer at the net for Cedar Ridge hitters Stephenson, Rachel Williams and Rebecca Bergman. The trio combined for 37 kills and eight blocks, while Wolfe dished out 34 assists.
"They are probably the best team we have seen all year, because they have so many different ways to come at you," North Lenoir coach Heather Humphrey said. "She (Stephenson) hit over my blockers. They were a good team."
The loss snapped a 13-game winning streak by the Hawks (24-2), who also dropped their first opening game of the season. North Lenoir's two losses marked the only times this season they did not sweep an opponent.
Saturday's match-up featured a pair of top seeds, which both ran through their respective conferences unbeaten.
After dropping the first game, North Lenoir played its most consistent overall during the second game. The Hawks quickly turned a 10-10 tie into a 16-10 margin with underhanded server Shannon Plymouth at the service line. Brittany Sanders and Randi Moulton had key kills during the run.
With a 21-13 advantage, Moulton served up three aces to put the game out of reach before the Hawks eventually took the set 25-18 after a tip attempt by the Wolves fell wide.
With the match tied at 1-1, Cedar Ridge steadily pulled away midway through the third set. Stephenson's kill pushed her team out to a 15-9 lead, before a four-hit violation on the Hawks pushed it to 16-9 -- prompting Humphrey to call a timeout. North Lenoir managed to get within six, twice, late in the set but never closer.
"I think we may have been a little intimidated to start, and in the second set we came back and responded," Humphrey said. "In the third game, we came out flat."
The fourth set saw more of the same from the Wolves, who jumped out to a 7-0 lead with Candice Thompson at the service line. The Hawks never recovered from the early deficit as Stephenson and Williams continued to put away kills.
On top of their offensive prowess, Cedar Ridge served up four aces, while the home team had two service errors, two unforced errors and two net violations.
The first set saw back-and-forth, tightly contested play through the first and middle stages. North Lenoir's latest lead was at 6-5, but it consistently stayed close with the visitors as Moulton, Plymouth and Brittany Sanders kept pace with the Wolves at the net.
The opening set got away from North Lenoir when Cedar Ridge's Taylor Hayes served on three-straight points to put her team up 19-13.
The Hawks were only able to trade points the rest of the way.
Moulton and Sanders finished with eight kills each and turned in perfect efforts from the service line. Leslie Oliver also had a flawless performance on serve and added three kills.
Moulton, Oliver, Plymouth and Chanee Lynch all played in their final volleyball games for North Lenoir. The quartet never lost an Eastern Plains Conference match during their careers.
"All four of them have done an excellent job this year and in the past," Humphrey said.
Cedar Ridge faces winner of Pender and Fairmont in the Eastern Finals.
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