DURHAM — It was very clear to Riverside volleyball coach Michael Hodge that this was going to be a closer playoff match than others may have anticipated.
After the first few points of Saturday’s first round meeting with Fuquay-Varina, Hodge knew his team wasn’t focused and that Fuquay was.
But Hodge’s Pirates rectified their part of the equation and made sure to hold off the Bengals in a 3-0 sweep with scores of 25-20, 25-22, 25-13.
“I have to remind them that you have to be ready from the first whistle,” Hodge said. “(Fuquay-Varina) believed they could beat us. And there’s nothing more scary than playing an opponent that thinks that they can beat you.”
Riverside, the 2-seed from the PAC-6 Conference and No. 7 in the News & Observer area rankings, had the size advantage on the Bengals, the Tri-9 Conference’s 4-seed.
But Fuquay, which didn’t have a game for a full week leading up to this game, had scouted Riverside well enough to know where to find its spots.
The Bengals lost seven of the final nine points in the second game and eventually the Pirates’ size and adjustments took over.
“Monday through Friday, we focused on specific things against their attack and their defense, we just didn’t execute. And they’ve got some tall girls over there,” Fuquay-Varina coach Jeff Pagel said. “Game one we played smart, game two we played a little less smart and then game three we just fell apart.”
This was believed to be the first time in Fuquay-Varina’s school history in which the program posted back-to-back winning seasons or back-to-back playoff appearances. The Bengals (13-9) will say goodbye to four seniors from this year’s team – Hannah Miller, Dana Lingenfelser, Erin Baker and Emilee Wessel.
“We’re really the only team in the conference that moved up from last year,” Pagel said. “They’ve done this program great. They continued the tradition that set up last year as far as making playoffs.”
The Pirates (19-4) will travel to Leesville Road (23-0) on Tuesday in the second round of the 4A playoffs.
“They’re the No. 1 team in 4A and this side of town,” Hodge said, noting that most players on his young team hasn’t played on this kind of stage yet. “That’s a really, really big challenge. And if we play to our strengths, you never know what could happen.”
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps