SPENCER — “Great North Rowan Volleyball Teams” would be one of the shortest books ever written, but the current Cavaliers are determined to change that.
“There aren’t any banners for volleyball here, so we’re thinking there’s never been a conference championship,” coach Sandy Lytton said.
She may be right. Volleyball is a relatively recent addition to the NCHSAA sports landscape, with the first state championship decided in 1976 and the first 2A champion not crowned until 1986.
North has spent most its volleyball life in the CCC and definitely never has won that league or produced the coach of the year. North has produced one CCC player of the year — Carrie Powers in 1999.
West Davidson and former league members Central Davidson, Ledford and West Iredell have taken turns ruling the CCC, but North is in the hunt this time.
North (5-8, 4-1) made that official by winning 25-22, 25-16 and 26-24 at home against rival Salisbury on Tuesday, a victory that meant second place in the CCC at the halfway point in the conference race.
“We started out slow, but we always kept hustling,” North sophomore Makala Lytton said. “Then we started playing awesome, started playing more to our ability.”
North gets a rematch with first-place West Davidson in Spencer on Oct. 1. West Davidson beat the Cavaliers 25-19, 26-24, 15-25, 25-16 in Tyro on Sept. 12.
“Everyone talks about how high we jump, and we’re fast, but the biggest thing is the girls have been willing to learn and do what I ask,” Sandy Lytton said. “We’ve changed lineups a lot, trying to figure out how best to use what we have, but the girls have never complained. These girls just want to win.”
Salisbury-North would be fierce even in croquet, but there was extra emotion on the floor Tuesday because the Blaire sisters, Brielle and Ashley, switched sides in the offseason. They traded SHS red and black for the green and gold of the Cavaliers.
“Emotions are going to be high with teenagers, but we really didn’t talk about that,” Sandy Lytton said. “All I said to the girls was that it was a big match and they needed to play like it was a big match.”
Brielle, committed to Virginia Tech and one of the top scorers in Rowan hoops history, is also a dominant volleyball player, and she overpowered the Hornets in Game 2, pounding unreturnable shots into the wood. She had seven kills in Game 2.
Brielle came into the match with 142 kills (99 more than any teammate) and a kill percentage of 52 percent.
Freshman Juliana Anderson had three aces and eight kills to lead the Hornets. Nyasia Harris, Jane Miller and Mary Seifert had six kills each. Emma Labovitz had 23 digs, while Seifert had 17. Olivia Smith had 21 assists.
Salisbury (6-6, 3-2) led 15-9 in Game 1 behind some hustling defense by Labovitz and Lora Withers, but Makala Lytton and Aliyah Farmer, another bouncy basketball star, had key kills as North roared back, and the Hornets’ errors piled up.
“You play like you practice, and we had one of our worst practices Monday,” Salisbury coach Mallory Hodge said. “I warned the girls this could happen.”
Brielle Blaire and Farmer owned Game 2.
The Hornets fought in Game 3, but Brielle Blaire twice had blocks on game point and NR setter Morgan Overcash had a crucial ace.
“We weren’t much in the past, but I think we’re a pretty good team now,” Overcash said. “We’re starting to connect and pick each other up, and that’s kind of exciting.”
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