The Middle Creek volleyball team made a little history Saturday night.
The Mustangs won the first state playoff match in their school’s history by blitzing Jordan 25-20, 25-20 and 25-16, running their record to 10-0 at home.
First-year coach Adrienne Core led Middle Creek (15-6) to its first playoff berth since 2009, but the Mustang players didn’t want it to end in the first round like it did five years ago.
“We just went in with the mentality like we have nothing to lose,” said junior Sydney Sozio, who closed out the match with three consecutive kills. “We have to prove ourselves and go in with confidence.
“The past few years, we haven’t done so well. But being undefeated in our own gym, that’s something that we are proud of. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue it and stay undefeated through the playoffs.”
Middle Creek faces No. 2 seed J.H. Rose, 3-0 winners over Millbrook, on the road Tuesday in Greenville.
“I still don’t think this was one of our best games,” Core said. “I think we did enough to get by, to pull out the win. Tuesday is going to be a different ball game. We’re going from seeing No. 18 to seeing No. 2, so we’ve got a lot that we need to make sure is cleaned up.”
The Mustangs took advantage of a mediocre game from Jordan (13-9), which led the first set 14-10 before Core called a timeout. Middle Creek stormed to a 25-20 win in that game, blocking Falcons hitters effectively and putting down several outside kills.
Both teams were sloppy in the second set before Middle Creek dominated the final set.
“We’re not accustomed to those type of mistakes,” Jordan coach Eric Hofheinz said. “Typically, we’re better than that. But a lot of times in high school sports, being consistent and reducing your errors is a good equation for success. We weren’t able to do that tonight, for whatever reason.”
Hofheinz said his team didn’t pass well enough to be deceptive on offense, allowing Middle Creek to set up blocks.
“If we get out of system too much, it leaves us less options, which makes the setter easily read by the other team, and they know where the sets are going to go,” Hofheinz said. “If you’re in-system, and it gives us more options on the attack, then hopefully their block is not as effective because now they don’t know where the ball is going.”
Some of that was the Mustangs’ offense, as Sozio, Sam Smith, Katie McCullough, Ellie Alfers and Emily Durham sprayed the ball all over the court.
“With our strong offense, we were able to take their setter out of system a lot,” Sozio said. “With that, it was easier to see if it their outside vs. middle was hitting. It was kind of obvious their middles weren’t hitting a lot, so as the game went on, we were getting used to what they were running, and our defense was great at picking up on that stuff.”
Jordan started the season on a high level before the injury bug bit. Starters Justine Jones, Jazmine Dye and Samantha Raburn all missed time with injuries, with Raburn cleared to play only two days ago.
“You can’t just put it back on the court and regain the magic,” Hofheinz said. “We had some miscommunication tonight that we normally don’t have. I think we lost a little bit of that when the lineup got a little bit thrown off.
“I’m proud of the way these girls did. I told them, ‘There are over 200 other teams who aren’t playing tonight and didn’t make the playoffs.’”
And fewer still that advanced to the second round.
Core said her team is usually energized by loud crowds at their games and is hopeful the Rose gym is rocking next week. Sozio welcomes it, too.
“With the playoffs, the crowds are usually pretty loud,” Sozio said. “Our team thrives off that, even if it’s the other team’s crowd. We just like loud noises and an exciting atmosphere, because then we play like we have nothing to lose.”