Lady Vikings volleyball downs Mitchell, wins state playoff opener
Jamie Shell / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Despite an emotional evening of Senior Night for the Lady Mountaineers senior players, the Lady Vikings looked to return the favor handed to the team the previous week by Mountain Heritage, who handed the Big Red a Senior Night home defeat.
Mitchell played with passion and vigor in the first set, matching Avery point for point. The set stayed close throughout, with the Lady Mountaineers pulling out a 30-28 win.
The loss galvanized the Lady Vikings and focused the club to step up its game. Avery played with purpose for the remaining three sets. AHS built a double-digit lead in the second set en route to a 25-12 win. The third set was a tighter affair, with AHS winning by the final score of 25-22.
The Big Red opened with a 5-0 spurt to begin the fourth and final set. Mitchell rallied, but Avery proved too much in taking the set 25-19 and the match three sets to one.
"We're proud to get a win anytime. We've struggled a little with consistency and playing at a high level. I think that happened in the first set," said AHS head coach Jimmy Tilley. "We swept Mitchell at our place and we might have come in a bit relaxed, and Mitchell came to play tonight. We'll play well for a stretch, but we have to consistently be able to play at a high level, even against teams that we for some reason think we don't have to work as hard to defeat. It was important for us to win this match and build some momentum entering the playoffs."
Avery finished the varsity season 14-7 overall and 8-6 in conference play, while the junior varsity completed a winning season with an 11-10 overall record and 8-6 conference mark.
Avery opened state 1A playoff action at Viking Gym on Saturday, Oct. 20, when it hosted East Wilkes. The Lady Cardinals showed talent and possessed size up front, which both proved advantageous in earning a 26-24 win in the opening set of the match.
Much like the previous match with Mitchell, Avery regrouped and played better volleyball. Avery pulled away in the second set with an 8-0 scoring run midway through the second set to eventually capture the set 25-16.
Avery continued its dominance in the third set, winning by a 25-17 score, but East Wilkes refused to fold as it captured a 25-19 win in the fourth set to tie the matchup at two sets apiece.
In the fifth and deciding set, the Lady Vikings opened strong, building an early lead and extending it to match point at 14-8. East chipped away, however, narrowing the margin to a single point with a 5-0 scoring run. Avery benefited from an East Wilkes service error for its final point to earn a 15-13 win and advance to play at Alleghany in the second round of the state playoffs on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
"The middle two sets of the match might have been some of the best volleyball we played all year. The passes and sets were great. We served well and made defensive plays we needed to make," Tilley said after the win. "I'm happy that our seniors were able to win in their final match. We didn't expect this one to be easy, but we were happy to be able to win and advance to the second round. I think Alleghany is going to be a good matchup and we're looking forward to the opportunity."
A full recap of Avery's efforts in the 1A state playoffs can be found in next week's edition of The AJT.