Union Pines hasn’t made much of a secret that it wants one more shot at unbeaten Gray’s Creek.
First, the Vikings, ranked No. 24 in the latest N&O volleyball poll, had to travel and beat Hunt 3-1 (25-15, 21-25, 25-21, 25-23) in a second-round match in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs Thursday night.
Gray’s Creek held up its end of the bargain, beating Corinth Holders 3-1. The Cape Fear Valley 3A Conference foes will meet Saturday at 6 p.m.
The win for Union Pines extended its win streak to nine matches as the Vikings improved to 19-4, and stopped Hunt’s streak at 11.
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Up two sets, the Vikings looked poised to close out the match quietly by taking the first five points of the fourth set, only to watch the Warriors rally back to take a 14-11 lead and triggering a timeout from Union Pines coach Toni Douglas-Boney.
The message in the huddle was simple.
“Calm down, take a deep breath before the serve, get the pass to the setter and terminate the ball,” Douglas-Boney said. “They know. We go over scenarios like this in practice all the time.”
The Vikings yielded one more point, then roared back behind the serve of Rachael Mashburn and middle hitter Abby Vacha at the net. Six consecutive points put Union Pines in front 20-19, and the Vikings held on to close out the match.
Hunt coach Tiffany Rowe couldn’t point to a key facet or two that gave her team trouble.
“A lot gave us a lot of trouble,” she said. “Their blocking. Their middle. Their serving was pretty spot-on and they mixed it up a lot. There were hits coming from all angles and tips.”
Vacha paced Union Pines with 18 kills, and Eliza Athans totaled 39 assists.
“She’s a pretty powerful player,” Rowe said of Vacha. “We were trying to keep it away from her, but they had a good setter.”
Hadiya Balser and Mashburn added eight kills each for the Vikings.
Claissa Parrott had 11 kills for Hunt, while Madison Pyle contributed 28 assists and four kills, and Amoret Stinagle chipped in eight kills and four blocks.
Gray’s Creek handed the Vikings their only two conference losses, though Union Pines did push the Bears to five sets once.
“I’m going back to watch film to see what we did right,” Douglas-Boney said of that match, laughing. “I think just the momentum, the win streak we have and that we’re playing great together. I’m hoping that will carry over.”
The match was the final one for Hunt seniors Parrott, Pyle, Lindsey Lewis, Hannah Williamson and Carlynn Mercer.
Hunt, the Big East 3A Conference regular-season champion, finished the season with a 14-8 record.