Middle Creek wins 4th annual Heritage volleyball invitational

mblake@newsobserver.comAugust 24, 2013 

  • Tournament finish

    1. Middle Creek

    2. Person

    3. Leesville Road

    4. Heritage

    5. Triton

    6. West Forsyth

    7. Jordan

    8. New Bern

— Senior Katie McDonald looked over her shoulder after the first game in the championship match of the Heritage Volleyball Invitational and had direct, but motivating words for her class.

“Two more games,” McDonald said. “Two more games and we get those shirts.” She pointed to the back wall of the gym where dark blue shirts with pink letters that said “Champions” on them.

True to her wishes, McDonald and Middle Creek could call themselves champions just two games later, as the Mustangs defeated Person 25-18, 26-24, 25-23 in the championship game of the Heritage Volleyball Invitational.

The Mustangs went 1-2 in the tournament’s pool play competition on Friday, but bounced back to defeat Triton, and then avenge pool-play losses to Leesville Road and then Person in Saturday’s bracket play.

“I made some team changes and then we changed up the defense a bit and we tried to run a quicker offense,” said first-year Middle Creek coach Danielle Martzolf.

Martzolf credited setter Isabelle Miller as helping run the offense and libero Lauren Durham as helping the defense stay in top form on the second day.

Middle Creek’s Katie McCullough was named MVP of the tournament. She had 14 kills against Person in the championship game.

The Mustangs were 9-14 last year and have made the postseason just once in its history – 2009 – but this year’s team is off to a promising start. Four teams from this year’s Heritage Invitational field ended last season in the News & Observer’s top 15 area rankings.

“After everything we went through last year, it feels really good to come out this year and start off our season with a win like this,” McCullough said. “This year, we have a lot more compatibility on our team.”

Person coach Hope Heverly said she wasn’t sure what her team would bring to the tournament after having to replace six seniors from last year’s group.

“I’m excited that they were able to come out here today and take second place,” Heverly said. “We’re still making young mistakes, but I see us continuing to grow this entire season.”

Leesville, last year’s state runners-up, were in a unique position in third place. The Pride had already defeated both Person and Middle Creek while going 3-0 in pool play, but were sent to the third-place match after falling in the rematch to Middle Creek in the bracket.

“That last game (against Heritage) was kind of a get-our-respect-back match,” Leesville coach Taine Mergenthaler said.

Heritage went 4-2 on the weekend to finish fourth. With just one senior, the Huskies amassed more wins in the tournament’s two days than it had in any previous season. The Huskies’ four wins came consecutively.

“We had a great day yesterday, we went undefeated and won our pool,” said Heritage coach Branden Green. “We try to be better at the end of the year than we are and grow every day... They’ve really bought into what we try to do and it’s starting to turn around.”

The all-tournament team included Leesville’s Samara Brown and Laura Stammen, Jordan’s Margaret Gunn, Person’s Hannah Blaylock, Triton’s Cassidy Hayes and Heritage’s Sydney Hinds and Hannah Midles.

All games except the final ones (seventh, fifth, third and first-place matches) were a best-of-three match, and those are dropped from team’s records when entering the postseason.

Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps

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