South Iredell got a sniff Tuesday of knocking off West Rowan, the state’s top-ranked 3A team and third overall. The Falcons refused to let go of their undefeated season, though.
See all the photos at the bottom of this article
Rallying from a 2-1 set deficit and a pair of five-point holes in the fifth set, the Falcons emerged with a 25-6, 13-25, 28-30, 25-19, 15-12 victory that, barring a late-season letdown, assures they will win the North Piedmont Conference championship outright.
The Vikings (14-5, 5-2) entered the night with a chance to move into a first-place tie in the NPC with West Rowan. It looked promising in the decisive set. Taylor Osborne had three well-placed tips for kills as part of a 6-1 South Iredell run to begin the fifth.
It was 12-7 Vikings after Malina Harris and Kaitlyn Landis put up a point-scoring combination block.
Unfazed, the Falcons (18-0, 7-0), who swept South Iredell in Mt. Ulla 25-14, 25-17, 25-22, responded by scoring the match’s final eight points to prevail.
Vikings coach Megan Skouby said she felt her team didn’t show the mental toughness to close it out like they are capable of. But she also tipped her hat to the Falcons, co-champions of the NPC a year ago.
“They’re never going to give up,” she said. “They’re never going to go away.”
Player of the game
West Rowan 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter Tori Hester turned in another great outing. The NPC’s reigning player of the year tallied 33 kills and four aces. She also had two blocks and played a key role in the Falcons’ back row defense.
Hester delivered three straight kills following the 12-7 deficit in the fifth.
She racked up 10 kills in the fourth set when the Falcons needed to force one last set.
Asked about West Rowan feeding the ball to its proven leader when its back was against the wall, Skouby said, “Wouldn’t you if you’re having trouble stopping it?”
South Iredell didn’t score a point on its own in the lopsided first-set loss until it was already 12-2 in favor of the Falcons.
Junior outside hitter Marissa Meyerhoefer had six kills, a block and an ace in the second set as the Vikings turned the tables to even the match.
South Iredell showed poise after falling behind 15-10 in the third on a Kaylin Dowling ace. Leah Davis’ impressive dig on a Hester blast kept the ball in play and Harris tipped the ball to the floor on the Falcons’ side of the net to tie it at 15.
The Vikings fell behind again but saved four set points to win the third. Ashleigh Thompson’s block gave South Iredell a 29-28 advantage and a Dowling spike attempt didn’t clear the net. South Iredell won 30-28 and led the match 2-1 heading to the fourth set.
Meyerhoefer finished with a team-high 17 kills for the Vikings. She also had two blocks and an ace.
Osborne and Landis added 13 and seven kills, respectively. Harris also had seven kills to go with her two aces, and she orchestrated the South Iredell offense at setter.
Dowling had 22 kills and two aces. Carly Stiller chimed in with six kills and four blocks for West Rowan.
Both teams are back in NPC action Thursday. The Vikings travel to Granite Quarry to face East Rowan. West Rowan hosts North Iredell, which took the Falcons to five sets in the teams’ first meeting.