Raiders top Warriors for tourney title

Published 9:08 pm Sunday, October 25, 2009

HOBGOOD – Revenge is sweet.

Make that three times as sweet.

For the second time in three years the Hobgood Academy volleyball team won the Tarheel Independent Conference tournament championship; avenging their only two regular-season losses this year as they defeated regular-season champ, Lawrence Academy, Thursday at Hobgood in straight sets, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20.

Both teams entered the final ranked in the top five in the latest NCISAA poll with top-seeded Lawrence third and Hobgood fourth.

“It’s amazing,” said jubilant Hobgood coach Sarah Sykes after the awards ceremony where her junior varsity squad also won the tournament title. “These girls have worked hard for this since seventh grade and they just put it on at the right time. I really can’t find the words to say right now.”

Senior Sarah Gregory Sykes led the Lady Raider attack with 12 kills, seven digs, two blocks and one service ace. Sykes was named as tournament MVP. Schuyler Edmondson had eight service aces and three kills while teammates Bobbi Stewart had two kills and ten digs and Haley Williams added six digs.

Ashtyn Mizelle, who was named league Player-of-the-Year, led Lawrence with ten kills, a pair of aces, and four digs. Ashton Lyle had two aces, five blocks, and three digs while Jennifer White had four kills and ten digs. Mizelle and Lyle were named to the All-Tournament team.

Hobgood couldn’t have done a better job of getting digs for returns if they’d had an earth-mover. In all the team had 49 on the night and their gritty play of diving all across the floor paid off.

“They were the better team today,” said Lawrence coach Dr. Ed Clouse, the TIC ‘Coach-of-the-Year’. “Sarah Gregory played the best I’ve ever seen her play. They’ve knocked us out of the tournament three straight years and usually with us it comes down to who plays the better game wins.”

Hobgood came out strong in the opening set, winning the first five points of the game before Clouse called a timeout to settle his team. Following the break, Sykes got a kill followed by an ace by Edmondson before Lawrence scored its first point on a Hobgood return error.

Lawrence cut the deficit to five at 9-4 as the scoring went back-and-forth before the Lady Warriors got it down to a three-point lead for Hobgood on a kill by Jennifer White at 18-15. But Edmondson served two more aces to push it back to five. Mizelle’s ace got Lawrence within three again at 20-17 before Hobgood outscored the Lady Warriors five-to-one, including the game clincher as a Lawrence return went out of bounds.

Hobgood opened the second set on a 13-0 run that stunned and silenced the large Lawrence crowd in attendance. Meanwhile, with the score 17-5 Clouse called a time out because of ‘sportsmanship issues’ with several Hobgood fans, but that failed to deter the Raiders who pushed the lead out to 23-10.

Lawrence looked done at that time, but the Lady Warriors rose up and put on a run of their own; scoring nine in a row. The valiant drive was reminiscent of their regular season comeback at Merry Hill and cut the score to 23-19. But this time Coach Sykes called the timeout and after gathering themselves Hobgood got the game-clinching two points on a Stewart kill and an ace by Williams that brought the Hobgood fans to their feet with thunderous applause.

Hobgood scored the first point of the third set before Lawrence reeled off five in a row to get their only lead of the night. But it was short-lived as Hobgood scored seven of the next nine to take an 8-7 lead. They pushed the lead to four thanks to a kill and a pair of Lawrence errors; one of which came when a return bounced off the edge of the upraised basketball backboard.

Lawrence stormed back midway through the game with a 9-3 run and tied it one last time at 14-14. Hobgood then took four-straight points, the last of which came on an unreturned ace from Edmondson. It then went back and forth until Lawrence had it down to three at 23-20. But Williams got Hobgood’s final kill of the night and a Lawrence error sealed the win as the Lady Raiders collapsed on the floor in victory to an ovation from their crowd.

“We’d bump it from the back line then get a good set,” said Sykes, “and when they get a good set we can hit it.”

“They’re good at pouring it on when we needed it,” she added. “Our motto has been ‘Lotta hands, one heart: work as a team’. This should get us a good seeding for the tournament.”

The independent schools’ volleyball seedings (16 teams) will be made this weekend. Tuesday’s games will be at the higher-seed’s home site with the winners moving to Wayne Christian School in Goldsboro to determine the state champion.

“This was an eye-opener,” said Clouse. “If we can take anything from this it’s that it’s one and done.

“I want us to stay strong,” he added, “If we come out flat in the state’s we could have our season could end on Tuesday and I want to be playing on Halloween.”