Saturday, October 13, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons dominant in rivalry match

Leader sports editor

Atmosphere was tense and emotions were high at North Pulaski’s Falcons’ Nest Thursday night, and the home team didn’t disappoint. The Lady Falcons’ volleyball team avenged an earlier loss to archrival Sylvan Hills, and did it in convincing fashion, beating the Lady Bears 3-0 to not only move into a tie for third place, but also took the number three seed in the class 5A state tournament from Sylvan Hills. The playoffs begin on Oct. 30 in Alma.

“That puts us in the driver’s seat if we don’t fumble the ball against McClellan,” North Pulaski coach Ben Belton said. “They beat us 3-2 and we swept them 3-0, so we have the tiebreaker right now if we just take care of business.”

The atmosphere inside the gym resembled basketball season, with fans from both teams sitting on one side of the court and vocally into the match.

“This was a great crowd and fun atmosphere to play in,” Belton said. “We really pushed this during school to get kids out here to watch this match, and we had a good crowd to show up. It wasn’t packed but the ones here were loud and that’s fun for the girls. When the crowd’s hyped, the players get hyped and we were glad to get this crowd tonight.”

Shelby Floyd had one of her best games of the season, finishing with 16 kills, nine points on serve including five aces. Floyd’s dominance didn’t just come from the front. She hammered several kills from the back row and many of her kills from the front row landed inside Sylvan Hills’ back line.

“The last week and a half she has really come on strong and played outstanding,” Bel-ton said. “She was 19 of 29 at the net against Mills. When she’s playing her best, there’s really nobody in the conference better than her. And a lot of that is because we played so well as a team. Our passes were better and Emily (Long) did a great job setting. This was a total team effort.”

The match was competitive early in game one. North Pulaski (10-6, 8-5) saw a 12-5 lead evaporate, but regained it when Kiarra Evans took serve and aced the Lady Bears. She scored three more times on serve to give her squad a 16-11 lead that never got any closer. North Pulaski won game one 25-19.

Game two was nearly identical. North Pulaski saw a 12-8 lead disappear when Sylvan Hills’ Ashton Williams scored five consecutive points on serve. Tyra Williams got three kills and Jordie Flippo put down two during the Lady Bears’ run, but North Pulaski answered right back.

The game was tied at 13 when junior Emily Long scored five straight points on serve. That’s also the point in the game when Floyd began to dominate at the left side of the net. The problem for Sylvan Hills (13-10, 8-5) is that it couldn’t double up on Floyd because Megan Chargualaf was having a great match on the right side. She finished with nine kills.

Kiarra and Shayla Evans were also effective from the middle. The duo combined for eight kills and four blocks.

“That’s what I mean by a total team effort,” Belton said. “When everybody is executing like that, it makes everything easier for everybody. They couldn’t load up on just one player because someone else was going to hurt them if they did. And the great thing is, I still think we can play better.”

Game three was close only for a few points. Floyd took serve with the scored tied at six and reeled off six-straight points, half of which were aces.

Sylvan Hills finally broke serve, but NP broke right back. Shayla Evans then took serve and scored five straight to finish off an 11-1 run and give the Lady Falcons a 17-7 lead.

“Shelby got two really hard kills in a row, then Kiarra blocked their best hitter and I think it was over after that,” Belton said. “When you’re just throwing them down hard like we started doing from both sides, it can demoralize teams.”

North Pulaski served extremely well too. The Lady Falcons scored 42 points on serve and 15 aces. Floyd and Long each had nine, Kiarra Evans and Sidney Silvas scored eight and Chargualaf and Shayla Evans had four apiece.

Sylvan Hills is qualified as for the state tournament, and can still get a three seed if it beats Jacksonville in the conference finale on Tuesday, and McClellan upsets North Pulaski. That scenario isn’t likely, but Lady Bear coach Harold Treadway hopes his team can regroup before the playoffs after an emotional loss.

“We just can’t seem to stay together as a team when things aren’t going just right,” Treadway said. “We’ve got to learn to pull together. We finish conference next week and we have a game between then and state, hopefully we can come together by then and be playing at a high level.”

The Lady Falcons play a nonconference game on Mon-day at Episcopal Collegiate High School before traveling to McClellan on Tuesday.