Close isn’t enough for Lady Bulldogs

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, September 7, 2011

King’s Fork’s Natalie Montgomery hits against Hickory’s defense during Tuesday night’s match at King’s Fork. Hickory beat the Lady Bulldogs 25-22, 25-14, 26-24.

With a few more points going King’s Fork’s way, Tuesday night’s district volleyball contest versus visiting Hickory would’ve looked very different.

Instead, Hickory won the key points to close out tight sets and the Lady Hawks swept the Lady Bulldogs 25-22, 25-14, 26-24.

That narrow difference is reason for optimism for King’s Fork head coach Sarah Whitfield. At the same time, the slim gap is all that’s needed to separate Hickory, a program used to finishing high in the district and contending for higher levels, and the Lady Bulldogs, a program trying to build to that status.

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“We told them, Hickory’s a great team. We felt we competed with them at times, but only at times,” Whitfield said.

Hickory won the Southeastern District Tournament and reached the Eastern Region semifinals a season ago.

Playing with the intensity shown in the first and third sets would give the Lady Bulldogs a better shot against most of the rest of the Southeastern District said their coach. It was nearly enough to switch Tuesday’s match around.

Hickory ran off the last four points to win the opening set and that momentum carried throughout the second set.

King’s Fork matched Hickory’s runs in the final set only for the Lady Hawks to hold on at the end.

Natalie Montgomery served two aces as part of four straight KF points to take a 9-7 lead. The Lady Hawks countered with a 7-0 run.

King’s Fork found a good hitting tandem with setter Jamika Townsend and hitter Crystal Collins teaming up for two kills. KF closed within a 15-13 Hickory lead and scored three straight points, with a big spike by Townsend giving KF an 18-18 tie.

Hickory won five of the next six points. King’s Fork took the next three. Hickory got a kill for a side out and match point at 24-22.

Collins put a spike off a Lady Hawk blocker to save one match point, then another big hit out off a dig attempt for a 24-24 score.

A Lady Bulldog error and a Hickory kill gave the Lady Hawks the two critical points.

“We just have to go to who’s hot, who’s hitting the ball, who’s playing consistently. We have to make smart decisions,” Whitfield said.

“We hung with (Hickory) in spells. We just have to bring it all together. If we can do that, we can win,” Whitfield said.

Courtney Brown and Townsend combined for 16 assists. Collins led KF with six kills.

The Lady Bulldogs (1-3) get another chance at home on Thursday, hosting Deep Creek with the match set for 7 p.m.