North Lenoir falls to Roanoke Rapids in NCHSAA First Round

North Lenoir falls to Roanoke Rapids in NCHSAA First Round

North Lenoir’s Amber Davenport looks to set up one of her teammates during Tuesday’s match with Roanoke Rapids. Photo by William “Bud” Hardy / Neuse News

LA GRANGE | The first home playoff game in three years wasn’t a great one for North Lenoir.

The Hawks controlled most of Tuesday’s matchup, but fell to Roanoke Rapids in four sets. The Yellow Jackets (10-10) didn’t garner a lead until the second set, but were able to recover and move on to the second round against South Columbus after the Stallions defeated the Blue Devils in four sets as well.

“Our whole philosophy this season has been digging ourselves out of holes,” Roanoke Rapids coach Jodi Carlisle said. “I didn’t expect us to win any other way — it seems like we do better whenever we’re in a hole.”

North Lenoir (16-5) used a 5-0 run, highlighted by a Kennedy Sullivan service, to go up 9-4 in the first set and take control. Gabby Stallings’ ace pushed the advantage to 16-8 and although Roanoke Rapids made a furious rally to get within 23-22, the Hawks were able to pick up the last two points to win the set. The Yellow Jackets would take their first lead with the opening point of the second set, but the Hawks scored the next four and would have a 19-14 advantage after a Summer Spence ace.

Photos by William “Bud” Hardy

From there, the dynamic of the match changed when Roanoke Rapids fought back to tie the score at 22. North Lenoir would score the next two for a set point, but the Yellow Jackets stung the Hawks with four straight points, highlighted with an Alyssa Snyder service ace and a Cassidy Dickens kill, to even the match in sets at 1.

Roanoke Rapids would take a 6-2 lead into the third set, but North Lenoir went on an 11-1 run to establish control again. Paytyn Jones’ kill had the Hawks up 19-14, but the Yellow Jackets would use a 9-1 spurt of their own to take control and eventually win 25-22. The teams would then combine for nine ties and five lead changes in the fourth set, but Roanoke Rapids seemed to have control ahead 14-9.

Ka’Nijah Taylor’s kill punctuated a 6-1 run by North Lenoir to tie the set at 15 and neither team would take an advantage higher than two the rest of the way. Roanoke Rapids would have match point at 24-23, but Jones would immediately register a kill. The Yellow Jackets would get the next point, but Jones had consecutive tips to swing momentum in the Hawks’ favor and set up a set point to extend the game.

From there, Kelsey Bierbauer would get a kill, followed by a double block from Snyder and Kendall Qualls to give Roanoke Rapids a 27-26 lead. The Yellow Jackets would secure the game on the next point to complete the upset.

“We had been trying to block their outside hitters all game and I guess the adrenaline was working,” Qualls said. “We had never made it past the first round, so we were excited.”

Snyder said the team will continue to stay strong while staring at a second straight road game.

“We’re going to pull together and even though we don’t have the big crowd because we’re on the road, we’ll motivate ourselves,” Snyder said.

North Lenoir coach Heather Carson said the team wasn’t in sync throughout the match.

“We just didn’t play our game,” Carson said. “At times, we were ready to come out and we just didn’t have that fight tonight. We kind of snuck by in that first set and then (Roanoke Rapids) started hitting the ball and finding our spots.”

Despite the loss, Carson said the 2018 campaign was strong for North Lenoir.

“This game ends our season, but doesn’t define our season,” Carson said. “They played hard, they practiced hard and we’ve had four different injuries. We’ve had to make some switches (but) they fought through it and I’m proud of them.”

Jones had 13 kills to lead the Hawks with Stallings adding nine. Paula Mason had seven kills and six blocks, while Amber Davenport provided 22 assists.

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