Ladybirds fall to Lady Warriors at home
Jimmy Lewis | Restoration NewsMedia
Southern Nash head coach Melanie Hicks gives timeout instructions to her Ladybirds, including Taylor Bailey (2) and Hannah Carpenter (4) during Monday's home match against Hunt. The Ladybirds lost in three sets to fall to 3-4, all in Big East play.
A season defined by adaption around COVID-19 protocols hasn’t caused the Hunt High varsity volleyball team to fall off the pace of defending its share of the 3-A Big East Conference regular-season championship.
However, it’s still been an adjustment for these Lady Warriors — in more ways than one.
Hunt took the final step Monday toward a critical Big East showdown with Franklinton, the team with which it shared the 2019 regular-season championship via a 25-10, 25-13, 25-9 victory over host Southern Nash that was never in question from the opening serve.
In moving to 7-1 overall and an unblemished 7-0 in Big East play, Hunt will oppose the Red Rams on Thursday at home. A Hunt win would assure the Lady Warriors no worse than another share of the conference title, with a loss pulling the teams even in the Big East’s loss column.
One of those adjustments has been the insertion of assistant coach Riley Bane into the head coaching chair as Tiffany Rowe spent her third game away from the program due to quarantine measures.
Indeed, Bane, the former Fike and Barton College standout as a setter who is now a special education teacher at Hunt, finds herself directing her former archrival during the heat of a conference championship chase.
“We came out strong, and as a team, our goal was to start off and not have any points where we felt like we needed to warm up — we wanted to do that in warmups,” Bane said. “We came out serving strong and aggressively, and I think we played great.”
There wasn’t much to slow down Hunt’s attack, which started with effective serving runs from senior Taylor Collins, sophomore Alex Williams, sophomore Ashton Frazier and senior libero Kinslee Braddy. The jump serve of Williams gave Southern Nash trouble from the back line, and her imposing presence in the middle of the front row anchored a Hunt attack that featured three hitters around the balanced two-setter offense. Hunt raced out to a 10-3 cushion and finished the opening set with the presence of Williams influencing a Southern Nash attack error into the net.
Frazier had 18 assists, with junior Bailey Kirby adding 15.
“It gives us more opportunities to be aggressive at the net,” Bane said of the two-setter approach.” “It gives us more opportunities to have three hitters at all times, so that has been a strength for us so we can have options, and we have options in the back row.”
Southern Nash (3-4) struggled to generate consistent pressure with its outside hitters and fell behind 10-2 to open the second set. The Ladybirds closed to within 13-9 on an ace by senior Ricki Bartley, but the Lady Warriors quickly pulled away on three straight kills from senior Meredith Jump, junior Taylor Ferrell and senior Taylor Collins. That reestablished a seven-point lead for Hunt, and junior Madelyn Ellis clinched the second set by tapping it to an uncovered area.
Freshman Hannah Carpenter had seven digs for the Ladybirds from her libero spot. Senior Taylor Bailey added four. Middle blocker Tabatha Tomaszewski, a freshman, was credited with three kills and two blocks.
But Hunt was too much behind Williams, who led the way with 14 kills. Ferrell added eight kills with Collins adding six.
“They’ve got height on us and they’re pretty good on the back row,” Southern Nash head coach Melanie Hicks said of Hunt. “They’re a tough one to beat. I think our coverage was really good tonight. We were there; we just couldn’t pop it up. It would just hit us and shank off.”
Hunt never trailed and owned a 7-1 lead at the start of the third set. From 14-7, Braddy served the Lady Warriors to a 20-7 cushion that forced the final timeout from Southern Nash.
It isn’t known if Bane will direct Hunt into its most critical match of the Big East season to date. Yet all roads lead to facing the Red Rams with a chance to establish a stranglehold at the top of the standings.
“I feel like every game we’ve played and every practice, we’ve been building up to playing them,” Collins said of Franklinton. “Especially because that’s always been our biggest competition.”
The Hunt High junior varsity volleyball team elevated its record to a spotless 8-0 Monday afternoon with a 25-16, 25-20 victory over 3-A Big East Conference opponent Southern Nash.
Sophomore Kayla Haley led the offense with the Lady Warriors, with sophomores Audrey Earp and Emerson Mills excelling from the service line.
Setting duties were split by the freshmen combo of Faith Bridgers and Lanie Johnson.
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