Lawrence survives Northeast

Published 12:34 pm Thursday, October 29, 2009

MERRY HILL – Championship teams find a way to win when they’re not at their best.

Fifth-seeded Lawrence Academy did just that here Tuesday afternoon as they held off Tarheel Independent Conference rival and number 12 seed Northeast Academy 3-1 to advance to the Elite Eight in the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs.

“Northeast played extremely well today,” said Lawrence Academy Head Coach Dr. Ed Clouse. “It was one of their best matches this season and it was one that could have gone either way.”

Lady Eagles’ sixth-year skipper Cap Pfeiffer agreed.

“I just couldn’t have asked for any more from them,” Pfeiffer said of his team. “They stepped up and gave everything they had. A few breaks here or there and who knows?”

Lawrence won the opening game of the match by a 25-17 count, but Northeast bounced back in the second game and topped the Warriors 25-21. The third game was close throughout with the Lady Warriors winning 25-20 and then Lawrence took the final game 27-25.

The Lady Warriors jumped out to an early 8-1 lead in the first game of the match. Ashton Lyle had a tip that started a seven-point run for Lawrence. Casey Belch served the last six points with three of them coming by aces. Lyle also had a kill in the run.

Northeast got a kill from Jennifer Sykes to close the gap to 9-5, but Lawrence was able to put together another run, this time rolling off five points in a row. Ashtyn Mizelle was the catalyst during that stretch with a kill and a pair of aces. Melissa White also had a kill during the run that put the Lady Warriors up 15-5.

Lacy Pfeiffer had a kill for Northeast to end the spurt and then served five points moments later to get the Lady Eagles to within 17-13. Jennifer White, however, had two points on her serve, one of which came thanks to a Mizelle kill to make it 20-13.

Lauren Edwards had a kill and Brittany Bolton took over the serve for Northeast and got back-to-back points, the last of which came on a Sykes tip that closed the gap to 20-16.

After an exchange of points, Mizelle had a kill that turned the serve back over to Belch who rolled off three in a row to close out the first game 25-17.

Sykes set the tone for game two on the first point when she had a service ace to put Northeast up 1-0.

Lyle had a kill to give the Warriors the serve and Belch recorded another of her five aces on the afternoon. Moments later, Lyle pushed the Lawrence advantage to 6-2 when she had a kill, an ace and two serves that were not returned.

An Edwards kill ended the run and moments later, Sykes had a block to help close the gap to 7-5.

The teams remained close for the rest of the match, exchanging solid runs on both sides. Jennifer White had a pair of aces to push Lawrence ahead, but a Pfeiffer ace moments later closed the gap back to one.

From the tie at 16-all, the teams went on to deadlock four more times. Sykes then had a tip and kill in the final five points to help Northeast take the game 25-21.

In game three, the Lady Warriors were able to jump out to an early lead. Lyle and Mizelle had back-to-back kills to help Lawrence edge ahead 3-1. After an exchange of serves, Mizelle had another kill and then added an ace to help Lawrence lead 7-3.

Sykes had a block that helped lead Northeast back and a point served by Bolton was enough to give the Lady Eagles a 10-9 lead. After a pair of lead changes, Belch took over the serve and rolled off six unanswered points. She received help from a Mizelle tip and a Lyle kill as Lawrence surged ahead 17-11.

A dig by Sarah Taylor Best and a good serve by Edwards got Northeast back within five (21-16), but that was as close as they would get.

White had one kill and Belch had a tip that helped Lawrence win 25-20.

Northeast was the one who surged ahead early in game four. Dayna Barnes had three good early serves, one of which was helped by a Sykes tip as Northeast led 8-4.

Lawrence rallied later in the game behind the serving of Belch, who had a pair of points, including one ace to close the gap to 14-12.

Mizelle then rolled off five straight points on her serve, two of which came via ace as she rallied the Lady Warriors to a 19-16 lead.

Northeast tied the match at 20-all when Sykes had a tip and Edwards had back-to-back serving points, but kills by Mizelle and Melissa White pushed Lawrence back into the lead.

It appeared Northeast was on the verge of elimination when a Mizelle tip gave Lawrence a 24-22 lead, but Cap Pfeiffer called a timeout and his team made the best of it, winning a defensive point and then getting a tip from Lindsey Bryant to tie the game at 24-all.

The game see-sawed back-and-forth until a Jennifer White kill set the stage for Lawrence’s 27-25 win.

Northeast played the match without senior Kelly Sykes. She was taken to the doctor earlier in the day due to illness.

“No one has played Kelly’s spot all year,” Pfeiffer said after the match. “We practiced it a little late this afternoon and then counted on the seniors to help our younger players be in the right position and I thought they all did very well.

“Out of our nine losses this year, four of them have been to this guy,” Pfeiffer said playfully nudging Clouse. “Ed was lucky to get out of this one alive.”

Dr. Clouse agreed.

“Northeast gave us everything we wanted today,” Dr. Clouse said. “They came ready and we came out flat just like we did in the tournament championship. If we want to get back to the Final Four, we have to play much better Friday.”

The Lady Warriors will travel to Wayne Christian School Friday for a 4 p.m. matchup with Trinity School of Durham. Trinity is the number four seed and advanced by dispatching Albemarle School in straight sets.

Northeast closes the season with a 14-9 mark. Four Lady Eagles – Lauren Edwards, Jennifer Sykes, Lacy Pfeiffer and Kelly Sykes end their careers with Northeast volleyball after leading the Lady Eagles to their first-ever state tournament bid.