Upon seeing that the USA South first round match between Salem College and Greensboro College had gone to five sets, Averett head coach Danny Miller relished in being the top seed.
The fourth-seeded Spirits claimed the first two sets but saw the fifth-seeded Pride battle back to take the third and fourth sets before ultimately winning the fifth as well.
“I was glad to see it go five,” Miller said. “(Greensboro) was coming off an emotional high, coming back from down from 2-0. If Salem had won, they probably would have felt it shouldn’t have gone five and they worked harder than they had to. Either way, it put us in a better position. Getting the bye makes a huge difference.”
Miller’s Cougars showcased as much in the nightcap of the two matches at the Grant Center on Tuesday, as Averett dispatched Greensboro in four sets to advance to Friday’s conference semifinals—also at the Grant Center. Averett won by set scores of 25-19, 25-13, 17-25, 25-12.
“We have the one seed, but the reality is that everybody’s playing one-and-done if you don’t perform and do what you have to,” Miller said about the mentality going into the weekend. “We’re guaranteed one more match. That’s all we know.”
In the match that got them to the semifinals, the Cougars came out quick against the Pride and built a 2-0 set lead.
Averett hit .324 and .333 in the first two sets, respectively, showcasing the offensive prowess that helped build a 14-2 league record during the regular season.
“Them coming off the high of winning the game (against Salem), you’re concerned that they have all the momentum, they have all the energy,” freshman outside hitter Lauren Montren said. “We had to make sure when we first came out that we matched that energy or brought more than they did.”
Montren led all players with 16 kills. Sophomore Sarah Shropshire and freshman Morgan Barnes backed her up with 12 and 10, respectively. Senior Madison Dadez and junior Zamyiah Mangum each added nine.
Just as they had against Salem, the Pride stayed alive by winning the match’s third set. Greensboro took an early 8-4 lead only to see it dissipate and become an 8-8 tie. The teams then traded the next 14 points, creating a 15-15 tie. The Pride went ahead for good on the next point, part of a 10-2 run to close the set—a run that also included winning a stretch of five straight points at the end.
“I think we thought we had it at first and so we got a little too comfortable, but we got it back together,” said junior setter McKenzie Miller. “We weren’t jumping as high, we weren’t moving the ball and we figured out that if we don’t play to our full potential then they can beat us.”
Averett quelled any chances of a comeback in the fourth set by opening a 7-2 edge in the early stages. The Cougars earned their 20th point before the Pride had earned even their 10th, helping to put the finishing touches on the four-set victory.
“I’m very excited that we’re at least playing the semis,” Miller said. “I think we’re going to take this win, and we don’t want to stop here. We want to finish the season, so we’re going to play to the best of our ability and have fun.”
For the match, Averett hit .300 while limiting Greensboro to a .179 hitting percentage. The Pride tallied more blocks at the net—four to Averett’s two—but the home team collected 80 digs compared to Greensboro’s 55. Averett also amassed 10 service aces, an effort led by junior Myka Patterson and senior Harper Scollo, who each had three.
The Cougars will face West Division No. 2 seed Huntingdon at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Grant Center. West No. 1 seed Maryville College will face East No. 2 seed Meredith College at 4 p.m. for a spot in Saturday’s championship match.