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Prep Volleyball: Carson advances; South loses to Bulls

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — Northwest Cabarrus offered more evidence on Monday that the South Piedmont Conference is one of the better 3A leagues in the state.
The Trojans pushed second-seeded Carson, at times, in Monday’s first round of the league tournament, but the Cougars prevailed 25-14, 25-22 and 25-13.
Carson advanced to a 7 p.m. semifinal tonight against Hickory Ridge in the Cox Mill gym.
“That was the No. 7 seed we were playing there,” relieved Carson coach Kelan Rogers said. “I believe our league is pretty good.”
Carson got a huge outing from junior middle hitter Lindsay Elmore, who had 12 kills, four aces and three blocks. Senior Elena Turnbull had five kills, four blocks and two aces. Sophomore Mallory Weast had seven kills and two blocks, while senior Madison Barnhardt added five kills.
Senior Chloe Jacobs had a steady day setting and digging, and freshman libero Katie Blackwell had one of her best performances.
Carson has the hitters to make a playoff run — Turnbull came into Monday’s match with 213 kills, while Elmore had 190, Weast 184 and Barnhardt 104 — but it all starts for the Cougars with a good pass to Jacobs. Blackwell got a lot of good things started on Monday.
“We all passed very well,” Blackwell said. “We covered our mistakes well and worked as a team.”
The 6-foot-1 Elmore was dominant as Carson took the first set, but there was drama in the second set. Northwest (8-13) got energized when it jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind the play of Shania Jones, and the Trojans were gathering momentum as they built a 12-7 lead.
Rogers called a timeout.
“We had a few errors, but mostly that was just Northwest making a lot of good plays,” Rogers said. “They were getting kills.”
Out of the timeout, Turnbull got a kill and an ace and Elmore got a block, and the Cougars were back in it. Then they started rolling. The last tie was at 16-all. Jacobs made a terrific dig that led to a kill by Weast for the point that put the Cougars (21-4) ahead to stay at 17-16.
“We got refocused during the timeout,” Blackwell said. “Coach told us to forget the mistakes we’d made and make a push to catch up.”
Four kills each by Weast and Elmore and two blocks by Turnbull allowed Carson to take care of the third set. The last tie was at 3-all.
“We were getting the ball to Chloe and she was making really good sets,” Elmore said. “She was giving us a chance to smack it down.”
Carson expects another tough match with third-seeded Hickory Ridge tonight. The teams played two matches that went the full five sets in the regular season.
“It’s not like we’re perfect, but we are doing some things better now than we were earlier in the season and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time,” Rogers said. “We’ll need to be good from here on out. There are no more easy matches.”
•••
Hickory Ridge 3, South Rowan 0
Sixth-seeded South Rowan hung with Hickory Ridge in the early stages of three straight sets, but the Ragin’ Bulls always pulled away.
Hickory Ridge (19-5), one of three South Piedmont Conference teams ranked in the top 10 in 3A, beat the Raiders 25-20, 25-16 and 25-20 in Monday’s first round of the SPC tournament.
“I’m disappointed, but that’s the best we’ve played against them this year,” South coach Jenna Horne said. “We showed a lot of heart, but we just couldn’t eliminate the errors.”
The Bulls advanced to the semifinals and will take on second-seeded Carson tonight at 7 p.m. in the Cox Mill gym. The teams are even. They had the same conference record (15-3).
The first set was tied 16-all, but South mistakes allowed the Bulls to take a 21-17 lead before the Raiders could regroup with a timeout.
Breanna Lentz had two kills and a block, Makayla Strickland had two kills, and Hannah Lambert had an ace in that opening set for the Raiders. Ally Todaro and Maddie Covey had three kills each for the Bulls.
The second set was at 7-all when Hickory Ridge ran off five quick points to take control. The Bulls earned the majority of their points with 12 kills and two combo blocks. Jayda Carlton had four kills. Lentz played the best for South with four blocks, and Lambert and Madilyn Jones had kills.
South had a 13-12 lead in the final set after an ace by Lambert, and it was 19-all when Jones served an ace.
Alonna Clouse got the kill for Hickory Ridge that broke the 19-all tie, and O’Connell had the kill for set and match point.
Lentz had three more kills in the final set, Lambert had two aces, and Janiya Downs contributed a block and a kill.
“The first time we played them we really didn’t show up and they beat us badly, but we’ve gotten better,” Lambert said. “We stayed with them today.”
South (13-12) could get a berth in the 3A playoff bracket.
•••
In first-round matches played at Cox Mill on Monday, top-seeded and undefeated Cox Mill eliminated No. 8 seed East Rowan 25-8, 25-11 and 25-10. No. 5 seed West Rowan swept No. 4 Robinson 25-12, 26-24 and 25-14 and will take on Cox Mill in a semifinal today at 5:30 p.m.

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