North Johnston’s run in the 2A playoffs was a surprising one since the Panthers entered last week thinking they’d have to win the Eastern Plains 2A Conference to get into the postseason. But by Thursday, the Panthers were in the playoffs as a wild card team, qualifying with an 8-12 mark.
Saturday, North faced a No. 1 seed in South Lenoir and took a game from the Devils before falling in four sets, 25-14, 25-19, 22-25, 25-11.
The Devils’ superior size and varied hitting attack were the keys to their victory. A string of hitting errors by North helped ease the Devils’ way in the first set on an 8-0 run that built a 14-3 lead.
The second set saw three straight aces by Madison Herring help South Lenoir build an early lead. North was able to rally back to within a point at 17-16 on three consecutive aces of its own by Jamie Johnson, but the Devils scored the next four points to pull away for a two-set advantage.
North staked an early 4-1 lead in the third set thanks to two Chandler Hines aces and a Johnson kill. South Lenoir battled back to get even at 10 and that’s when North captured nine of the next 12 points for a 19-13 lead.
Kills late in the set from Shae Suttles and from Hines (the set ender) gave the Panthers a 25-22 win in the set.
“We had a good set there,” said North coach Nicole Davis. “We didn’t do anything outstanding, just played like we could and we were able to take a set off of a No. 1 seed.”
South Lenoir’s hitting got back on track in the fourth set with Macey Croom and Rachel Dawson picking up two kills each as the Devils built a 19-7 lead it wouldn’t give up.