By David Rogers. October 23, 2018. BOONE, NC — Junior middle hitter Tegan Allan pocketed 12 of 13 kill attempts (92.3%) Tuesday night, leading Watauga to a sweep of Belmont-Stuart Cramer, 3-0, in Lentz-Eggers Gymnasium, 25-8, 25-9, 25-11, in the first round of the North Carolina state championship tournament.
COVER IMAGE: Tegan Allan (20) spikes one of her 12 kills vs. Stuart Cramer in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A tournament. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
The visiting Storm came into the match with a 15-8 overall record, including 10-4 in the 3A Big South Conference, but proved no match for the Pioneers. Watauga excelled in ball control, with Chloe Baldwin’s 8 digs accompanied by five digs apiece by junior outside hitters Brooke Byrd and Rebekah Farthing and Jasmine VanDyke scooping up three digs.
Meanwhile, senior setter Grace Hayes was credited with 37 assists during the Pioneers’ dominating, three-set team performance.
While Stuart Cramer managed relatively little in the way of an offensive attack, Farthing notched four blocks on the night.
Farthing also recorded a game-high four service aces, while Byrd, VanDyke and Baldwin each had two.
The Storm had few answers for the Pioneers’ blistering attack. Farthing joined Allan for match-high honors in kills with 12 each, followed by Byrd’s nine and junior Carolyn Murray’s five.
Afterward, Pioneer head coach Kris Hagaman acknowledged that her Pioneers benefit not only from good competition during the regular season, but also went not in school.
“We benefit from a lot of out-of-school experience,” she told reporters in assessing her team’s performance. “Our goal is to always serve aggressively and I think the girls did a pretty good job at that.
“Sometimes it is harder to play,” Hagaman added, “when you (face a team playing) a slower pace. It is often easier when you face a team that attacks strong consistently. So we had to really focus on ball control and cleaning up little things. Overall, I was very pleased with our ball control.”
Stuart Cramer was quite a bit of unknown to Watauga’s players and coaches coming into the match.
“We didn’t know who we would face,” said Hagaman. “We found out late yesterday who we were playing. We really didn’t have much information about them. Anybody can beat anybody, so you have to go into that sort of match thinking that your opponent is going to have a really strong system.”
In preparing for the first round encounter, Hagaman and her charges faced a different challenge than most of the teams in the playoffs.
“We had a week off,” she noted, “while a lot of teams were playing their conference tournament. That gave us a chance to work on some things we wanted to improve on…Since we didn’t know until late afternoon, there was nothing we could do to really prepare for this particular opponent.”
The western bracket’s #4 seed, Watauga will face the 20th seeded Sun Valley Spartans on Thursday (6:00 pm, Lentz-Eggers Gym) in the state playoffs’ second round.
Sun Valley upset #13-seeded Jay M. Robinson of Concord in the first round on Tuesday, 25-18, 25-18, 25-17. The Spartans finished the regular season tied for third with an 8-6 record (15-6 overall) in the strong Southern Carolina 3A Conference. Marvin Ridge (14-0, 32-9) swept the conference title, closely followed by Charlotte Catholic (12-2, 19-8). Cuthberson (8-6, 15-7) was tied for third in the conference with Sun Valley.
In the first round, Charlotte Catholic advanced by sweeping Statesville (25-15, 25-15, 25-18), while top-seeded Marvin Ridge had an easy time in getting by East Rowan (25-9, 25-4, 25-6). Cuthbertson (#19 seed) fell to #14 Southwest Guilford, 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-16).
Elsewhere in the Northwestern Conference, #11 Hickory advanced by sweeping #22 Weddington, 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-19), while 27th seeded St. Stephens fell to #6 Cox Mill (25-15, 25-13, 25-15) and #31 Alexander Central lost to #2 West Henderson, 3-0 (25-12, 25-21, 25-13).