By David Rogers. October 25, 2018. BOONE, NC — It wasn’t easy, but Watauga advanced to the third round of the North Carolina state volleyball tournament Thursday evening at Lentz Eggers Gymnasium, 25-17, 25-20, 25-23.
COVER IMAGE: Jasmine VanDyke serves against Sun Valley in the first set of the Round 2 match in the state championship tournament. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
Although technically a sweep, the Pioneers expected a tough contest from the Spartans and the tall, athletic team from Monroe did not disappoint the High Country’s favorite daughters.
The Spartans kept pace with the Pioneers for much of the first set, largely because of Watauga service errors. The adrenaline-juiced Pioneers repeatedly served long, giving away points to their visitors from Monroe.
When the score was knotted at 8-8, Watauga began to settle into its more characteristic, ball control rhythm. From that point forward, the match was never seriously in doubt as to who was the better team, although Sun Valley kept things interesting in all three sets.
Junior outside hitter Brooke Byrd tallied 18 kills for the Pioneers, including a respectable .459 hitting percentage. Fellow outside hitter Rebekah Farthing added 11 kills while middle hitter Tegan Allan contributed six.
Junior designated setter Chloe Baldwin recorded 4 service aces to help Watauga establish some pull-away scoring runs, while Farthing, Macie Keller and Jasmine VanDyke added one service ace apiece.
Baldwin and Farthing were team-high leaders in digs, with 18 and 12, respectively. Senior Grace Hayes was credited with 39 assists. Byrd, Farthing and Baldwin kept the ball in play by receiving serve 20, 21, and 14 times, respectively.
With its Charlotte-area geographic focus and more opportunities to play against high-level competition, in 2018 the Southern Carolina Conference in which Sun Valley competes produced two of the top ten seeds in the western bracket of the 3A state championship tournament, Marvin Ridge (#1) and Charlotte Catholic (#10). Both advanced on Thursday to the third round.
Elsewhere, Watauga’s Northwestern Conference rival Hickory (seeded 11th) surprised 6th-seeded Cox Mill, 3-1.
The third round of the state playoffs is scheduled for Saturday. As the #4 seed, Watauga will host #5 McMichael of Mayoden, NC at 4:00 pm in Lentz-Eggers Gym. McMichael (27-1 overall and 14-0 in 3A Mid State Conference play) is led by 6-0 sophomore outside hitter Cassidy Tanton (316 kills in 71 sets) and senior libero Katie Kilts (180 digs). Sophomore setter Danni Lester leads The Phoenix with 485 assists on the season, in 72 sets played.