DURHAM — They were two of the most back-breaking shots a volleyball team can face in the playoffs, and Jordan knew it was the kind of momentum that could break its opponent. Yet despite losing two points amidst pandemonium in a boisterous Jordan gymnasium, visiting Green Hope was unfazed.
The first wild play came from junior Margaret Gunn.
Needing to get the ball over the net, but facing the opposite direction from well behind the end line, she lifted a no-look free ball that went through the rafters of the gym, dodging bars and lights alike, before nosediving inches on the other side of the net in front of a stunned Green Hope team. Jordan coach Erik Hofheinz couldn’t contain himself as the gym roared with excitement. He clasped both hands on top of his head, stood to the side of his bench and smiled wildly as his face turned red with incredulousness.
The next came a few points later, when Jordan libero Kristen Clay saved a ball that popped straight up and went off the backboard of a raised basketball hoop. The next Jordan player sent it off the backboard again, and a third player came over to straighten out the play and get the third hit over the net. Green Hope’s return was blocked, and Jordan’s players and fans went wild again.
But Green Hope’s resolve was too much. They held their own in that fourth game to close out Jordan in the second round of the 4A volleyball playoffs to win 25-15, 22-25, 25-17, 26-24. The fourth game alone had, 11 ties, five lead changes and two potential momentum-swinging points by Jordan.
“I just told them, ‘Hey, you can’t control those factors, so let’s concentrate on the game that we can control,’” Green Hope coach Karl Redelfs said. “I called timeout and said ‘We’re still in it. We’re still in this game, let’s run our tempo of offense.’”
The tempo of the game proved critical.
While the host Falcons (Jordan) had an error-filled game one, it improved in game two, when the visiting Falcons (Green Hope) began to make the same mistakes. After a third game was handled by Green Hope almost start-to-finish, Hofheinz got maximum effort from his team in the last game.
Jordan’s defense forced Green Hope to play with different pace.
“I think we tried to slow it down so they wouldn’t get sparked. On all of our fast plays, they did a great job digging the ball and hustling after the ball, picking the ball up,” Redelfs said. “So I said ‘Let’s slow it down just a little bit, try to get them to slow down and then speed it up and just keep switching that tempo.’”
Margot Ruffiex had a team-high 14 kills for Green Hope followed by Caroline Neideffer (nine), Jordan Feuerhelm (nine) and Allison O’Connor (seven).Green Hope will host Wakefield in Thursday’s third round.
“It was so intense, but it was so amazing – the atmosphere and all that – to pull through as a team,” said Neideffer, a junior setter committed to Appalachian State. She had 34 assists.
Green Hope (19-4) has won 14 straight matches and 17 of its last 18. Hofheinz called them “one of the hottest teams in the state.”
“They could easily be a No. 1 (seed),” he said.
Gunn had 12 kills for Jordan (26-7) while Kaitlyn Reed had nine.
Jordan graduates six seniors from this year’s team, one of the proud program’s best in recent years. This year’s team, which plays in a gym where six state championships are displayed, won the PAC-6 Conference.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps