Southern turns focus to playoffs after tourney final loss
Southern Vance competed, but couldn’t get over the hump against South Granville, which preserved its unbeaten league record in Wednesday’s 2-A Northern Carolina Conference Tournament final.
The Vikings were pushed in the last two sets, but claimed a 3-0 (25-19, 29-27, 26-24) win.
Southern earned the two-seed in the conference and will host No. 3 Ayden-Grifton of the Eastern Carolina Conference Saturday in the first round of the 2-A state playoffs.
“Saturday, we’re going to have to work out our kinks together as a group,” said Southern head coach April Abbott. “Not necessarily skill-wise, just as individuals and how we work as a team.”
Four of South Granville’s five losses this season came to 4-A opponents. The other came to 3-A county rival J.F. Webb.
The Vikings (21-5) have two seniors on the roster in Cayce Bell and Casey Ellington, after reaching the 2-A state final last season.
“Still a good team,” said Abbott. “And I was glad we were able to compete with them the way we were. Definitely competed better today than we did in the regular season. They just made fewer mistakes than we did. We made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t have made.”
Southern matched South Granville blow-for-blow in an intense second set and the Raiders appeared to have snatched the momentum with a block at the net. But a net violation was called, giving the Vikings a 28-27 lead before they took a 29-27 win.
“This whole tournament we’ve struggled with being in the net,” said Abbott. “I don’t know if I would say it’s because they’re being aggressive — that’s what I’m going to hope it is, being aggressive, pursuing the ball.”
Southern led 24-22 in the third frame following a Kiyanna Kearney spike at the net that was blocked out of bounds.
Ellington answered with a kill and tallied a service point for South Granville before the Vikings claimed the final two points.
“At the end of the day,” said Abbott, “it comes down to are you mentally strong enough to handle the pressure that’s coming — as a team.”
“We definitely had some huge mental mistakes today,” Abbott added. “Things that hadn’t happened all season were happening today.”
Contact the writer at email@example.com.