High School Sports

Defending volleyball state champions Nation Ford roll into third round of state playoffs

Nation Ford’s #12 Sophie Fischer spikes the ball past the Fort Mill front line as Nation Ford sweeps Fort Mill in varsity volleyball on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.
Nation Ford’s #12 Sophie Fischer spikes the ball past the Fort Mill front line as Nation Ford sweeps Fort Mill in varsity volleyball on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. Special to The Herald

The Nation Ford Falcons spotted J. L. Mann a 1-0 lead but roared back for a 3-1 win over the Patriots in the second round of the 5A volleyball playoffs on Tuesday night at Nation Ford.

The Patriots won the opening game 25-23. Nation Ford built an early 6-1 lead and stretched it to 11-4 when Hanna Neff scored on a perfectly placed shot. J. L. Mann rallied and outscored the Falcons 8-1 to tie the game at 12-12. Charity Metcalf scored on a kill to complete the comeback.

The two teams battled on even terms for the next few points and it was knotted at 17-17. The Patriots scored the next three points for a 20-17 advantage, but the Falcons rallied. Sophie Fisher got three kills for the Falcons to offset a Patriots’ point and the deficit was 21-20.

When Kamren Harper scored on a kill, J. L. Mann enjoyed a 24-21 lead. The Falcons scored the next point, but the Patriots won the first game with the next point.

“I did not change anything after the first game,” Nation Ford head coach Carrie Christian said. “I just told them to worry about what was going happening on our side of the net and not worry about what was going on with their side of the net.”

The Falcons took control after the first game and won the next three in convincing fashion.

They won the second game 25-13. When Neff scored on a kill, the Falcons had a 7-3 lead in the early going. Taylor Atkinson’s kill a little later gave Nation Ford a 13-4 advantage. The Patriots fought back, slicing the Falcons’ lead to 14-8 when Louisa Bourne scored on a block, but they would get no closer the rest of the way.

Fisher got a kill and Emily Lammers scored on a block to get a 9-3 Falcons’ run started. Grace Scott capped the spurt with a pair of service points. That made it 22-11, and the Falcons outscored J. L. Mann 3-2 to win the game and even the match at 1-1.

The Falcons won the third game 25-16. They opened with a 5-2 spurt, but the Patriots came back. They cut the deficit to 8-6 on a kill by Lauren McCutcheon. A 5-0 Falcons’ run produced a 13-6 cushion, and a 6-2 spurt followed that gave them a 19-8 lead. Fisher had three more kills in the 6-2 run.

The closest J. L. Mann got the rest of the way was seven points at 20-13. When Atkinson scored on a block, the Falcons led 23-13, and they coasted from there to win the game and take a 2-1 lead.

The Falcons won the fourth game 25-16. A strong start gave them an 8-3 lead. Scott capped the opening rally with a service ace. The teams traded points, and the Falcons maintained that five-point lead with a 17-12 advantage on a kill by Kennedy Martin.

Nation Ford outscored J. L. Mann 8-4 down the stretch to win the game and move to the third round. Neff scored the decisive point in the match with a perfectly placed shot just inside the baseline.

Christian was very pleased with the way her team was focused in the last three games in addition to its attention to detail in every phase of the game.

“We played extremely well as a team tonight,” she added. “We got numerous points from kills, and we did a great job of blocking and serving. I was also proud of our total defensive effort. We keep a lot of points in play by diving on the floor.”

The defending state champions will take their overall record of 45-5-1 and a 12-game winning streak to the next round on Thursday night when they take on the Mauldin Mavericks on the road.