No. 12 seed Midway survived a five-set battle with visiting No. 21 Trinity Senior in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A state volleyball playoffs Tuesday to advance to the second round for the fifth straight season. Individual set scores were 25-22, 18-25, 25-20, 19-25 and 18-16.
“It’s kind of the desire to keep going,” said Midway senior Karlee Martin. “We don’t want it to end. This is our favorite sport and we love doing it. So, it’s just the fire and desire inside of us.”
“Knowing that this is the playoffs, we don’t want to lose out,” said Midway senior Alyssa Wrench. “This is our senior year. We’re in it to win it and that keeps us going forward and pushing.”
Midway coach Brandy Wrench suggested divine intervention may have been on the Raiders’ side.
“The grace of God,” coach Wrench said. “That is what it boiled down to. We’re still making the same errors and hesitating on defense. We’re a wonderful team. Really good. Momentum-wise, we can run quick plays. But it is the point of running those quick plays effectively and that is where we’ve got to clean up. We played the same ball the last four games. We talked about not playing ball that way the last four games and play Midway ball instead. We just have not pulled it out. We pulled this one out by the grace of God.”
Senior Alyssa Wrench recorded a double-double, with a match-high 18 kills, a match-high six blocks and 35 digs to lead the Raiders (15-4).
“As I saw me continuing to get blocked, I told my setter, Caitlyn (Holland) to push it out because I saw the line was open,” Alyssa Wrench said. “That helped a lot. Whenever I hit it there, they wouldn’t return it.”
Senior Karlee Martin was also a strong all-around performer for Midway, with six kills, 20 digs and one ace on nine service points.
“I listened to my coaches and I just kind of pushed through for my team,” Martin said. “They get behind me. They let me know what I’m doing wrong. We just kind of help each other fix what we’re doing wrong.”
“One thing about Karlee is she’s a big hustler,” coach Wrench said. “You that if you tell her to do something, she does it. She’s that player that will change things and she’s all the time cheering everybody else on. She is like our momentum driver.”
Junior Caitlyn Holland also recorded a double-double, with eight kills, 22 assists and 16 digs and held serve for eight points.
“When we were going on runs, we were getting smart,” Holland said. “We were looking for their holes and I would adjust my sets to where my hitters could find the holes and hit it easily in there to get quick and easy points.”
Makayla Chavis had five kills and three digs. Alexis Jackson had one kill, three blocks, five digs and two aces on eight service points. Maranda Byrd had one kill, three assists and 28 digs and held serve for three points. Jordan Wallum had one kill, one assist, four digs and two aces on three service points. Erin Barefoot had one kill, three digs and one ace on five service points. Sydney Williams had 10 assists, three digs and one ace on five service points. Alyssa Wrench had one ace on five service points.
Freshman Gracie Ballard had 14 kills and led all servers with five aces on 11 service points, senior Nyah Powers had 11 kills and three blocks, junior Addison Parrish had seven kills and three blocks, sophomore Maddie Stevens had seven kills and one ace on 11 service points and junior Sydney Skeen had a match-high 39 assists to lead the Bulldogs (19-8).
“They could move it around a lot,” Martin said. “Not only were they hitting hard, they could place it well. So, you had to be on your toes, moving around to get where they wanted you not to be.”
The first set was close all the way down to the end. After a Parrish kill, assisted by Isabella Clem, cut Midway’s lead to 23-22, an Alyssa Wrench kill, assisted by Holland, and a Williams ace ended the set in Midway’s favor.
Midway jumped out to an early 12-3 lead in the second set, but Trinity cut the lead to one with an 8-0 run, including four Ballard aces. That run continued into a 22-6 run to end the set and tie the match.
The third set was close again. After a Powers kill, assisted by Skeen, cut Midway’s lead to 23-20 late, a Holland kill, assisted by Byrd, and a Trinity error gave Midway the set.
Midway held a 17-16 lead late in the fourth when a 6-0 run put Trinity in front. With the Bulldogs holding a 23-19 lead, back-to-back kills from Parrish and Stevens, both assisted by Skeen, gave Trinity the set to force the decisive fifth set.
After a Ballard kill, assisted by Skeen, gave Trinity match point at 16-15 in the fifth, coach Wrench took her final timeout.
“’Mental toughness,’” coach Wrench said she told her team. “’This is the time to be mentally tough. You cannot make an error. That starts with the pass.’ Whenever they had control of the ball and the serve, we had to execute that pass to make that play and that comes from mental toughness.”
When play resumed, a Martin kill, assisted by Holland, tied the set and a pair of Trinity errors sent Midway to the second round.
Midway will meet one of Trinity’s PAC7 2-A Conference mates in Thursday’s second round, traveling to fifth-seeded Wheatmore (22-4), which beat No. 28 East Davidson 3-1 in the first round Tuesday.
“We’ve got to hop on it earlier,” Martin said. “We tend to start low and get high, but we need to start high and stay high. We need to have the momentum and get the quick points and we need to work hard.”
“I believe Wheatmore beat them every set (Wheatmore won all three matches 3-0 against Trinity, including the conference tournament final), but they were all back-and-forth,” coach Wrench said. “So, what we saw tonight, we need to up a little bit more. Obviously, they outplayed Trinity, so for us to outplay Wheatmore, we’re going to have to step our game up a lot more.”