Hosting first round playoff matches should fill a competitor with excitement, adrenaline and the desire to make short work of the opposition.
While all of the previously listed attributes were hard to discern among the South Johnston volleyball team, the Trojans found just enough oomph to oust visiting McMichael from the NCHSAAA playoffs with a three-set sweep.
While the Trojans were never in any serious trouble from their 20th-seeded opponent, they appeared as if they were going through the motions while winning the first two sets of their opening round match, 25-18 and 25-22.
“I felt like I had to challenge the girls couple of times, which I was kind of disappointed in,” said South coach Matthew Adams. “Because we were back in the playoffs for the first time in three years (2011). Playing a state playoff match on your court is something that should excite you.”
South displayed a balanced attack in the opening set, offsetting the all-around play of McMichael sophomore Sydney James, who almost single-handedly kept the Phoenix (15-9) in the match.
Leading the way in the opening set for the 13th-seeded Trojans (15-7) and facing a second-round meeting against fifth-seeded Asheboro were Kathryn Lee. Emma Blackman, Madison Byrd, Selena Flores and Regan Byrd. Lee, Blackman, Madison Byrd and Flores combined for seven first set kills while Regan Byrd, Lily Allen, Lee and Blackman tallied a combined 13 digs.
A kill by Allen, and a kill, block and scoring dig from Lee enabled the Trojans to pull from a tie at 16 to a 20-17 cushion the Phoenix never overcame, despite a trio of kills and a service ace by James.
Allen took charge in the second set with six digs, three kills and three blocks, complementing the kill and three digs by Mikaylah Tart. as the Trojans played the Phoenix point for point.
A block by Tart gave the Trojans a 21-20 lead in the set, and a kill from Madison Byrd, a tip from Tart and a kill by Blackman sealed the win and a 2-0 lead for South.
“It took a little prodding I guess,” Adams said. “We had a little lapse in letting them win the third set, but winning a playoff match 3-1 is what it is all about.”
James took full control for the Phoenix in the third set, with six kills and a block with five digs as McMichael roared to a 17-9 lead and cruised to a 25-29 lead, cutting the Trojan’ match lead to 2-1.
South finally found what they seemed to be missing and turned the tables in the fourth set, jumping out to an 11-4 lead behind two kills by Lee, a kill and a tip from Tart, four digs from Regan Byrd and two kills from Blackman.
They needed all the balance they could muster, as James again controlled McMichael’s side of the court, registering six kills and six digs, keeping the Phoenix alive.
But the Trojans were not going to allow it, putting the match away with a 25-15 win.
Bulldogs roll; Pirates eliminated
Princeton swept by Bear Grass Charter School in the opening round of the 1A playoffs Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs upped their record to 18-4 on the season and were set to visit Whiteville — a 21-25, 27-25, 25-17, 25-18 winner over East Wake Academy — in the second round of the playoffs.
Corinth Holders fell to Asheboro in three sets in the 3A playoffs. The Blue Comets (21-2) claimed a 25-11, 25-15, 25-13 victory over the Pirates, who finished the season with a 9-10 record. Corinth Holders will lose only two (captains Samantha Payne and Kelsie Hocutt) of its dozen players to graduation.