The Fort Mill volleyball team held off a rally from Nation Ford to get a fifth set win over their rivals while handing them their first Region IV loss of the season.
While Nation Ford’s record may look deceiving – they came in to the match at 13-14 – it didn’t tell the story behind the Falcons’ strength of schedule as they prepared themselves for the region schedule by playing some tough non-region opponents.
Fort Mill had also prepped itself with a tough non-region schedule, but had been able to handle the pressure better, coming into the match against their rivals with an 18-7 record.
In the fifth and final set after rallying from a 2-0 deficit, Nation Ford again allowed Fort Mill to jump out to a good start, just as it had in the first and second sets to go up 6-3 before a time out. Fort Mill kept the edge, playing aggressively and forcing Nation Ford into errors after the time out. After a Falcons time out, Nation Ford came out and scored several points in a row to tie the set at 12-12, but the Jackets stuck to their game plan to recover and go on to get the win.
Fort Mill head coach Gina Farley said her team stayed with its game plan when it mattered most.
“I know how bad they wanted this win,” Farley said.
“We lost our path there for a while. They got a little flat. The fifth set we went back to the game plan. We knew where we needed to place it.”
NaFo jumped ahead
In the first set, the Falcons started out by going up 5-0 before the Jackets took an early timeout. Fort Mill was able to rally in the first set to tie the set at 8-8. From that point, the Falcons struggled to gain any real advantage as the two traded points back and forth. After being tied at 11, the Jackets scored four straight points, forcing Nation Ford to take a timeout in the first set trailing 15-11. Fort Mill held control after the timeout and went on to win the opening set.
Nation Ford started the second set much like the first, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before Fort Mill scored. However, the Falcons were able to control the set by not allowing Fort Mill to climb back into the match as they went up 10-6. Again, Fort Mill rallied to tie the match at 12-12 as Nation Ford started to struggle in passing the ball and went ahead 14-12, again forcing the Falcons into a timeout. The Jackets kept control of the match after the timeout by not allowing Nation Ford to gain any momentum, although the Falcons pulled within several points on occasions.
The Falcons again started the third set like it did the first two going up 7-1, with two of those points coming on reversed calls by the head referee before Fort Mill took a timeout. This time Nation Ford was able to keep control and not let Fort Mill get back into the game while going up 12-3 before another timeout. The Jackets struggled in the third set on their returns, hitting the ball long at times and struggling with their passes.
Nation Ford ran away with the third set to get back into the match at 2-1.
The fourth set started a lot closer as the two teams traded points back and forth to start before Nation Ford rattled off four straight points to take a 6-2 lead. Although a small lead, it would give the Falcons the extra push they needed in the set to maintain control while extending the lead to 11-6 before a Fort Mill timeout. The Jackets struggled in returning balls from Nation Ford and at times looked confused and appeared to struggle to communicate on who was going for the ball after serves.
The Falcons again went on to win the set, forcing the fifth and final set.
Later in the week, Fort Mill avenged a loss earlier in the season to Northwestern by winning in three sets – 25-21, 25-18 and 25-17. Nation Ford also swept Clover in three sets – 25-19, 25-16 and 25-17.
Up next for Fort Mill will be matches against Clover and North Carolina school Ashbrook this week at home. Nation Ford will be facing Northwestern and non-region opponent Byrnes both on the road.
The Jackets and Falcons will square off again in the regular season finale at Nation Ford Oct. 13.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM