Prep Volleyball: North wins, ties for first
SPENCER — Between games 4 and 5, North Rowan fans stood and yelled and the “Big Green Nation” chant resounded through the gym like it was a boys basketball playoff game.
Only this was volleyball, a sport the Cavaliers haven’t been relevant in for quite a while.
They showed they were for real Tuesday, overcoming a dismal start to beat West Davidson 17-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-14 and 15-9. The teams left the gym tied for first place in the 2A Central Carolina Conference with 6-1 records.
“We’ve still got three games left, but we beat a very fine, skilled team tonight, and this means we have a chance to be conference champions,” thrilled North Rowan coach Sandy Lytton said. “It would mean a lot to have a banner for volleyball, no matter how big or small — just to let everyone know we were here.”
There’s still some work to do against East Davidson and Thomasville and North has to go to Salisbury for what it is sure to be an emotional senior night, but the Cavaliers (7-8) control their own fate after topping the team that has led the league all season.
“I think I’m about to cry,” said North’s sophomore star Makala Lytton, the coach’s daughter. “I’m so proud of my team right now, just so happy.”
Lytton had nine kills, led North in digs and had some unbelievable serving runs. She basically won Game 4 by herself, blistering curving jump serve after jump serve to score the first 13 points of the game. She was on, and there wasn’t much the Green Dragons could do about it.
“We finally got the momentum and I didn’t want to let them get it back,” Makala Lytton said. “My teammates stayed focused and I just kept serving.”
Brielle Blaire made a lot of plays. There were stretches when the Green Dragons (9-7) had no answer for the Virginia Tech-bound basketball standout who transferred from Salisbury in the offseason. Blaire finished with 18 kills and nine blocks.
“It obviously doesn’t hurt North that Brielle came over,” West Davidson coach Michael Green said. “But give North credit. Those girls worked very hard tonight.”
Also instrumental in North’s victory were setter Morgan Overcash, who had a huge serving match, and Aliyah Farmer, who had four kills in Game 4. Ashley Blaire and Caroline Billingsley had key kills in Game 5. Anna Lingle had two aces in Game 3.
Then there was libero Demaria Robinson. She was shaky early receiving serve, but she’s awfully quick and was all over the place as North came back.
“Demeria fixed it,” Coach Lytton. “And if she hadn’t fixed it, there’s no way we could’ve won this match.”
Sarah Green had 11 kills for the Green Dragons. Libero Kristen Adair rolled like she was on fire and led West Davidson’s defense. Rachel Hamrick was solid as a rock setting, and Hannah Green and Madison Hunt had major runs at the service line.
Sarah Green and Kaley Adair combined for seven kills and Hunt had three aces, as West Davidson nearly chased North out of the gym in Game 1.
“They weren’t making any hitting errors at all,” Coach Lytton said.
It was more of the same in Game 2 — for a while. West Davidson led 21-11 when Brielle Blaire unloaded a kill that may have torn a hole in the floor. That spike said we’re not going to take it anymore and it sparked a North surge. West Davidson held on to win that game 25-22, but momentum had swung to the home team.
“It took us a while to get into the match, but Coach Sandy always believes in us,” Brielle Blaire said. “We started having fun.”
Lytton’s powerful serves got North off to a 4-0 start in Game 3. The most memorable kill of that game was one Lytton smoked off the shoulder of West’s Kaley Adair, who did everything she could to keep it in play.
Lytton owned Game 4, powering North to that 13-0 lead right out of the chute, and fans chanted as the teams took the floor for the decisive Game 5.
Lytton got the Cavaliers off to another 4-0 start in the final game. Brielle Blaire made the play of the match with North clinging to a 6-5 lead. She was in the air and sailing away from the ball, but she used her off-hand to flick the ball over the net for a crucial point.
“I actually practice that a lot,” Brielle said. “Coach likes to call me ‘Lefty’ and has me work on those left-handed plays.”
Brielle had one more amazing play left in her. She made a block, and when the ball caromed right back over the net to her, she made the kill. It happened so fast, she almost did it all in one motion.
“I just reacted — like to a rebound in basketball,” she said.
North’s lead in Game 5 was 12-9 when Billingley got her only kill, but it was a massive one.
Game point was delivered by Lytton. With some assistance from Billingsley, she rose high for an emphatic block to bring an end to the marathon.
“We lost our focus on serve-receive and we missed too many serves,” Coach Green said. “North got momentum, and if you can’t pass it, it’s hard to get momentum back.”