10/19/05 — Hunt bounces E. Wayne from ECC volleyball tournament

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Hunt bounces E. Wayne from ECC volleyball tournament

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on October 19, 2005 2:17 PM

WILSON -- Coach Bruce Burridge has seen his Eastern Wayne volleyball team turn in some of their best performances this season when their backs were against the wall.

On Tuesday, the No. 2 seed Warriors improved after a disappointing first set against Wilson Hunt in the second round of the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference, but couldn't come up with crucial points down the stretch of the final two sets as Hunt emerged with a 25-15, 25-22, 25-23 sweep of Eastern Wayne at Wilson Beddingfield's gymnasium.

Tuesday's first semifinal was a match-up of two teams that split a pair of five-set, regular season contests and finished in a three-way tie along with Charles B. Aycock for second place in the ECC.

With the win, third-seeded Hunt (14-6 overall) picked up the conference's second and final guaranteed N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff spot and will face Beddingfield in the tournament final on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Eastern Wayne (10-7), which drew a first-round bye in the tourney, now must hope to receive one-of-three wild cards in the eastern bracket to advance to the playoffs.

"It's still possible. There's still a shot," Burridge said of his playoff chances. "We're 10-7, and there are three wild cards out there."

Service errors and the inability to receive Hunt's serves plagued Eastern Wayne on Tuesday, specifically in the first set. Hunt served up eight aces in the first set alone as it took leads of 12-5 and 17-9 on solid service runs by Brittany Farmer and Casey Strickland, respectively.

Eastern Wayne cut the first-set deficit to 20-15, before a service error quickly gave Hunt the serve back as Sydney Carter served out the first set with four-straight points.

"Serve receive was rough, and our serving was pretty rough," Burridge said. "I wasn't impressed with either one. Once those started going downhill, everything else went with it."

Eastern Wayne's Kelly Elliott served on four points with three aces early in the second set to give the Warriors their biggest lead of the match at 5-2. The quick run by Elliott also proved to be Eastern Wayne's longest of the match.

Hunt's Allison Pittman answered with a four-point run of her own to give her team a 7-5 lead. Eastern Wayne led the second set three more times with the last advantage coming at 12-11 on an ace by Deniz Alemdar.

Neither team served more than three times in a row the rest of the way as Eastern Wayne's Leanna Rothwell delivered a kill with teammate Brooke Newsome at the service line to force the last tie at 20-20.Hunt came out energized out of a timeout, scoring five of the next seven points and closed out the second set 25-22 on a kill by Pittman.Eastern Wayne looked poised out of the gate in the third set to push the match to a fourth set - leading by six as late as 13-7 after a kill by Anna Wilkins. Steadily, Hunt started cutting into the EW margin, beginning with back-to-back aces by Farmer to make it 13-10. The third set featured four ties in the late stages with the final deadlock coming at 21-21 after an unforced error by Hunt.

Hunt regained the lead one point later on a block by Kiara Jones and much like the second set, effectively held off Eastern Wayne the rest of the way. Emily Sasser, one of three Eastern Wayne seniors, had a clutch kill late in the third set, but it wasn't enough as Hunt sealed the game and match at 25-23 on a spike by middle hitter Alex Calvert.

Following the match, Burridge was quick to praise the effort of seniors Sasser, Alemdar and Lauren Williford.

"My three seniors have held this team together and brought us up to the next level," Burridge said. "Without their hard work and dedication, we could have been in trouble a long time ago."

Eastern Wayne will likely know its playoff fate before the end of the week when the NCHSAA announces the brackets.