Prep volleyball: North Iredell 3, Carson 1

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 10, 2009

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE ó Carson girls trudged out of their locker room, with each Cougar looking like she’d just lost her dog, her boyfriend and her car keys.
The reason for the long faces was obvious. After 10 straight wins, Carson lost a volleyball match Thursday afternoon. The Cougars fell 25-16, 18-25, 25-17, 25-16 to NPC rival North Iredell.
North Iredell (7-2, 2-1) has three fine players back from an undefeated team that won the 3A state title, but that didn’t soften the disappointment.
“Oh, we knew they’d still be good, but after you’ve won 10, it’s hard to lose,” senior Breckin Settlemyer said. “I’ve never felt this bad.”
Coaches don’t mind when losses sting. It means players will strive mightily to avoid a repeat of that feeling.
“Winning does make you hate losing,” senior setter Taylor Whitley said. “But when you look at it, two months ago who thought we’d be 10-0. It’s not like we’ll just give up.”
Carson (10-1, 3-1) came out tight. Animated coach Kelan Rogers flung himself on the floor to remind his players how to make a dig after the opening point of the match.
It was 5-0 when Rogers demanded his first timeout. It was 6-0 before a kill by Settlemyer put Carson on the board. That positive sign was greeted by wild cheers.
“When we first got out there we were overwhelmed and played kind of scared,” Whitley said. “But then we got fed up with it. I know I did.”
After digging a 9-2 hole, Carson traded points and gained confidence, but North Iredell took the game.
“We started playing better, but we still made a lot of mistakes,” Rogers said.
Carson owned Game 2, with libero Sarah Marshall making a sliding dig that energized the crowd and gave her team a 6-1 lead. Whitley had a run of five service points early. Leah Perkins closed it out with another five in a row.
The pivotal Game 3 was deadlocked at 13-13, but North Iredell seized control behind the play of veterans Amy Shelton and Haley Rhyne.
Carson rode the serves of Marissa Sellers and Marshall to an 8-3 lead in Game 4, but North Iredell caught fire and caught up at 9-9. Then the Raiders rained emphatic kills to pull away.
Still, North Iredell coach Natalie Tribble was impressed by the Cougars. There was a long stretch in which Carson outscored the visitors 52-47.
“When we played Carson in the past their setter (Whitley) was very strong and they were always scrappy and defended the court well,” Tribble said. “They’re better hitters now. More aggressive.”
Settlemyer paced Carson with nine kills. Other leaders included Whitley (six), Amber Ingraham (five), Shanna Stewart (four), Jennifer Hough (four) and freshman Allison Blackwell (three).
Rhyne had 15 kills to lead North Iredell. Shelton had 10. Brooke Redmond and Kallai Johnston added six apiece.
Rogers said the loss provides the Cougars with the measuring stick they needed.
“We know now what mark we’re shooting for, and I think this match was closer than the score looks,” he said. “North Iredell is better than us, but the gap is narrowing. I believe the girls are still in good spirits. We’ll start working tomorrow to close the gap.”