Corinth Holders was right there in every set against Mayoden McMichael in the second round of the 3A state volleyball playoffs Tuesday. But the host Phoenix wouldn’t let the Pirates do anything more than hang around and moved on with a 25-19, 25-23, 25-19 victory.
Corinth Holders was even at 9 with McMichael in the first set, tied at 15 in the second set and tied at 8 in the third set. Each time, the Phoenix (24-6) pulled away with an offensive attack that featured the right mix of kill shots and tips or pushed balls over the Pirates’ blocks.
“It’s disappointing after the way we came out against Orange and played so well,” said Corinth Holders coach Charles Riley. “We just didn’t play good defense. We gave up too many free balls across the net.”
The Pirates finished 14-7 in their first season in 3A competition .
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McMichael used an 8-1 scoring run behind the serve of Tristan Rakestraw to pull away in the first set.
The second set featured ties at 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 before Aria Galloway notched a winning block and a winning kill to push the Phoenix ahead. The lead grew to 23-18 before the Pirates got back into the set.
Winners from Lindsay Alford and Cyarra Pierson helped pull Corinth Holders within 24-23 before a big cross-court kill from Sydney James put McMichael up two sets.
The Phoenix kept the Pirates off-balance with a mix of tips over the block attempts of the Pirates’ front line. And just when there was some uncertainty about which attack approach McMichael would go with, the Phoenix did something that caught the Pirates off guard.
“We played Cleveland and they have a very similar approach,” Riley said. “So we have that experience. We got back on our heels in the first set. And we had six balls tipped in front of us in the second set. We just didn’t take care of our assignments consistently.”
Corinth Holders had some solid offensive work but it just didn’t produce in the bunches it would need to top the Phoenix.
Alford and Cole Narron had nine kills each in the loss.
Corinth Holders led 7-5 in the third set and was within a point of McMichael as late as the 16-15 score but a 7-1 scoring run allowed the Phoenix to pull away.
The Pirates lose five seniors to graduation: Alford, Narron, Pierson, Lexi Consiglio and Lindsay Alford. It’s a group that has won three playoff matches in the past two seasons.
“We really started the season strong (10-1) but then had a little slump,” Riley said. “But we still finished second in our conference behind a great Triton team and beat Orange in what was our real signature win.”