Heritage had never won a state playoff match in volleyball in its short five-year history – until new head coach Jessica Furlough came along.
And now the Huskies are making it look easy.
The No. 23 seed Huskies survived a quick start by visiting No. 26 East Wake, rolling to a 25-16, 25-16, 25-20 victory in second-round 4A action Tuesday night.
The result propelled Heritage (17-7) of the Cap-8 into Thursday’s third-round match at No. 2 Greenville Rose, while the Warriors of the Greater Neuse River finished 10-9.
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“The girls are taking a lot of pride in this,” Furlough said. “We have four seniors who have played together on this team since they were freshmen, and they want to go as far as we can.
“I knew I was coming into a tough conference. When I saw these girls I knew they were better than a seventh-place team. I wanted a winning season out of them, and I had high expectations from the start.”
East Wake’s Keauna Vinson wrapped up her first season coaching at her alma mater.
“We didn’t do what we worked on in practice defensively,” Vinson said. “Heritage is a good hitting team, and after the first few points we lost our timing on our blocks.”
The Warriors had upset No. 7 seed and rival Knightdale to reach the second-round match.
“Overall I feel good about our team going into next season,” Vinson said. “We just have to learn from our mistakes.”
East took a 5-1 lead in the first set on four straight blocks from junior Angel Rizor, but the Huskies came back to take a 15-14 lead and never trailed again in the set.
“We’ve just done a good job playing as a team this year,” said Heritage’s junior outside hitter Hannah Midles, who finished with 14 kills. “If we don’t pick each other up we know things can fall apart.
“Coach has brought us a lot of intensity and she’s always giving us positive feedback, and I think that has brought us together as a team.”
Although the second set finished with the same score, Heritage took control more quickly and never gave up its lead after the 10-9 mark.
“It was great just to make the playoffs this year,” said the Huskies’ senior captain Sydney Hinds, who finished with 21 digs. “We’ve been together for a long time now, and we have a really deep team. If anyone’s ever struggling, we know how to pick each other up.
“East Wake was pretty intimidating at the net to start the match, but we had come so far this season we knew we could win.”
The third set proved to be the toughest for the hosts, as they didn’t take the lead for good until 17-16.
“We needed to do a better job of covering deeper,” East Wake senior captain Kianna Wynn said. “Their middle hitter was better at getting the ball to open spots than we were, and we didn’t do a good job covering.”