Top-seeded host Harnett Central overcame numerous errors and a rally from upset-minded No. 4 Pine Forest to win 3-2 in the second round of the All American 3-A/4-A Conference volleyball tournament Tuesday. Individual set scores were 25-21, 25-13, 17-25, 22-25 and 15-9.
The homestanding Trojans (16-7) committed a total of 53 errors in the match.
“I told them I don’t understand why it looks like we have to fight for points,” said Harnett Central coach Ashley Gaines. “Why we have to fight to get to 15 and then we’re ready to roll. When you play a team like Pine Forest that’s athletic and is going to go after every ball, you can’t wait until you get to 15 points to decide to play. You’ve got to play hard the whole time. That was one thing we really tried to drive right then and there. You’ve got to play every game like it’s your last from here on out.”
Senior Ivanna Jones had a double-double, with 19 kills and 14 digs, junior Lily Gervase had 16 kills and five blocks, junior Carlie Love had a double-double, with 29 assists, 14 digs and eight aces on 21 service points, senior Carlee Harrell had a double-double, with 10 assists and 12 digs, and senior Sinai-Avalos Beltran had 18 digs and two aces on 20 service points to lead Central.
“Ivanna, the whole night, she was ready to hit,” Gaines said. “She wants the ball all the time. She’s that player for us. She has been all season long. And it doesn’t change now that we’re in the postseason and getting ready to get ready for the playoffs.”
Avalos-Beltran had six kills and one assist. Harrell had four kills and one ace on three service points. KeErica Snead had three kills, one assist, one block and two digs. Gervase had one assist, three digs and two aces on three service points. Mikaela Goss had 17 digs and two aces on four service points. Jones had three aces on five service points.
Junior S’kya Muwwakkil had 13 kills, three blocks and one ace on eight service points, senior Chayse Daniels had 19 assists and four aces on 13 service points and senior Kailey Ann Strickland had three aces on 16 service points to lead the visiting Trojans (12-13).
“A good hitter like (Muwwakkil), who knows where to put the ball and work around the block, you have to be ready to adjust,” Gaines said. “It was not clicking and then in the fifth set it started clicking.”
After Central narrowly won the first set and dominated the second, Pine Forest rallied to win the third and fourth sets and tie the match.
With Central holding an 11-9 lead in the fifth set, a Gervase kill, assisted by Love, sparked a 4-0 run to end the match.
Harnett Central will host No. 2 seed Terry Sanford (15-5), which also narrowly avoided an upset in five sets against No. 3 Triton Tuesday, in the championship match Wednesday. Harnett Central and Terry Sanford tied for first place in the regular season, but Central won the coin toss for seeding for the tournament. The teams split regular season meetings, with the visiting team winning both times.
“We can’t send as many free balls over like we did with Pine Forest, because Terry Sanford’s going to put it away right in our face,” Gaines said. “So, No. 1, being consistent and being smart with what we’re doing with the ball. No. 2 is to come ready to compete. Last time they came here, they swept us in three. We weren’t ready to compete and we got knocked in the mouth. But I think the girls remember that taste in their mouth a little bit and they’re ready for that revenge game tomorrow. I told them, ‘You can’t hold back and hope to play Terry Sanford tomorrow. You can’t hold back any energy or anything to play them.’”