Midway, the No. 13 seed in the Eastern bracket, made short work of visiting No. 20 seed South Lenoir with a 3-0 win in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A volleyball playoffs on Saturday. Individual set scores were 25-15, 25-11 and 25-9.
“I think we did a really good job of executing our plays,” said Midway coach Brandy Wrench. “We kind of looked against their defense to see where their holes where and that’s what we were swinging towards. It’s something we had talked about in the locker room before coming out and then coming and putting it into action makes a huge difference when you have a plan and you stick to it.”
Midway advances to the second round of the state playoffs for the fifth straight season.
A pair of seniors led the Raiders (18-7) at the net. Caitlyn Holland had a double-double, with 10 kills, 15 assists, four digs and three aces on 16 service points and Makayla Chavis had nine kills and three digs.
The service line was a key factor for Midway, as the Raiders held serve for a combined 47 points, including 16 total aces. In addition to Holland’s match-high total, junior Sydney Williams had three aces on nine service points to also lead Midway serving.
“Strategy-wise, you try to find that one or two that just don’t pass up well,” Wrench said. “You try to keep it in that area. The girls started finding those, we call them ‘seams,’ that’s between two players. So, when you start finding the seams, the girls can get discouraged or don’t know who’s supposed to take it. We took that to our advantage. Every team has those seams and if you can find them, you do good at keeping serving. And they did a good job of that.”
Makenzi Hudson had four kills and two blocks. Jordan Wallum had two kills, one assist, two blocks, 11 digs and three aces on seven service points. Maranda Byrd had two kills, three assists, 10 digs and four aces on six service points. Chloe Baggett had two kills and three digs. Allison Belflowers had two kills, one dig and two aces. Sydney Williams had 13 assists and three digs. Natalie McPhail had eight digs and one ace on seven service points.
“It was a team effort,” Wrench said. “They all worked. They all stayed positive. And you could see that they kind of stayed hyped throughout it all. There wasn’t a time that I felt like we were down and not getting excited about each point. They were getting excited about each point and playing it through. That makes a huge difference in the game.”
Sophomore Lyndsay Williams had five kills, senior Jessica Harris had nine assists and senior Michaela Elmore had three aces on five service points to lead the Blue Devils (14-5).
South Lenoir only led once in the entire match: at 1-0 in the first set.
After Midway opened the first set with a 7-2 run, South rallied to cut the lead to two, at 13-11. With Midway holding a 15-13 lead, a kill from Holland, assisted by Sydney Williams, sparked a 10-2 Midway run, that also ended with a kill from Holland, assisted by Sydney Williams, to finish off the set.
Midway opened the second set with five unanswered points, including three aces from Sydney Williams, and dominated the remainder of the set.
“Serving’s huge,” Wrench said. “If you can get those serves, get those aces, quick serves, quick points, that makes a huge difference. That already leads you up into the advantage. We depend a lot on Sydney. When she gets back there, we have complete faith in her for sure.”
Midway also came out strong in the third set, opening with a 12-3 run and dominating the remainder of the match.
Midway will travel to East Central 2-A Conference mate and Sampson County rival Clinton (24-1), the No. 4 seed, for the second round of the state playoffs on Tuesday. Midway and Clinton split regular season meetings, with the Raiders winning 3-2 at Clinton. The Dark Horses won 3-0 at Midway in a match that decided the regular season conference championship. Midway is currently the only team to beat Clinton (24-1) this season.
“It’s definitely going to be making sure our serves are staying hot,” Wrench said. “And two is going to be working on our blocking. That changes the game whenever you can have those big blocks and get in the other team’s heads. Blocking will be a thing we really kind of focus on, because we know they’ve got Taylor (Spell) on the front line and Sarah (Harrison). So, their big hitters, we’re going to try to stop them as much as possible.”