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Prep Volleyball: Carson holds serve; East knocks off Robinson

CHINA GROVE — East Rowan has turned in a strong, although mostly under-the-radar volleyball season, and it got a bit better on Monday.
The Mustangs finally proved to themselves and to everyone else that they could beat Robinson.
East (14-8) had lost at home and on the road to the Bulldogs, but a neutral floor at Carson broke the spell. The Mustangs won 25-20, 25-20, 22-25 and 25-21 in the first round of the 3A South Piedmont Conference Tournament, and they were the better team. They were in control most of the match.
“It’s just hard for any team to beat another team three times,” East setter Jordan McCall said. “Today it was definitely our turn.”
Fifth-seeded East had to overcome an injury to outside hitter Kaitlyn Vanhoose, but it got off to brisk starts in all four sets. Fourth-seeded Robinson was only able to rally in the third one.
“We made fewer mistakes today than in the other two matches with them,” East coach Sandy Basinger said. “And we served more aggressively. A lot of girls had good serving days.”
McCall, Vanhoose, Avery Wright, Brittany Small and Leah Wyrick drilled aces in the opening set as East set the tone.
Wright closed the second set with a kill and an ace, and the Bulldogs (12-8), who had beaten East twice by 3-1 scores, had their backs to the wall.
Things swung Robinson’s way midway through the third set when East gave up points on back-to-back rotation errors, but East reclaimed it, jumping on Robinson 7-2 in the fourth set, and holding off a late flurry by the Bulldogs. Down 19-8, Robinson fought back as close as 22-16, but Small and Wright delivered key kills, and the Mustangs finished — and celebrated.
Wright had 15 kills, while Small had 14. McCall added a half-dozen kills to her sets. Baleigh Hill was instrumental in East’s victory as a defender and server.
“We came together as a team a lot today,” Small said. “Everybody did their part.”
While East won’t get one of the SPC’s three automatic playoff berths (unless it shocks the world and wins the tournament), the Mustangs should find themselves somewhere in the 3A bracket.
The state playoffs start Saturday.
East advanced to a 4:30 p.m. semifinal today against top-seeded Carson. No. 2 Cox Mill (24-1) will battle No. 3 Hickory Ridge (16-5) at 6 p.m.
•••
Top-seeded Carson (23-2) had no trouble with No. 8 seed Northwest Cabarrus (7-15) in Monday’s early game.
The Cougars played everyone that owned a uniform and still rolled 25-9, 25-7 and 25-12 to end the Trojans’ season.
“For the most part, we played well,” Carson coach Kelan Rogers said. “I thought we did a good job of keeping the intensity up and we didn’t make a lot of careless errors. I didn’t think we played very well Saturday (Carson went 1-1 and lost to undefeated 4A Reagan), but we got back today to where we’re supposed to be.”
Morgan Hester had 14 assists, five aces and four kills for the Cougars. Lindsay Elmore had 10 kills and two block assists. Elena Turnbull had seven kills and four aces. Madison Barnhardt had seven kills. Mallory West had three aces.
“We did all right,” Hester said. “It was different, playing at 4:30, without a big crowd here.”
There should be a few more people in the bleachers today when the Cougars take on the Mustangs at 4:30 p.m.
In first-round tournament games at Cox Mill on Monday, Cox Mill beat West Rowan 25-10, 25-14 and 25-5, while Hickory Ridge beat South Rowan 25-19, 19-25, 25-16 and 25-22.
This tournament will have a huge bearing on Carson’s seed for the playoffs. If the Cougars win the tournament, they’ll get a very high seed and several home games.
Cox Mill and Carson tied for first in the regular season and split with each other. Carson won the coin flip that determined the No. 1 seed for the tournament.

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