Saturday, October 12, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons hold off Devils

Leader sportswriter

The 3-0 final was misleading as North Pulaski got all it wanted from a scrappy Jacksonville team in the second installment of the 5A Central Conference cross-town rivalry at the Devils’ Den Tuesday.

The Lady Falcons had difficulty closing out the first game after leading the entire way, finally ending with a 25-21 victory, and had to battle back from a massive 13-4 deficit in game two, eventually winning 25-23. Jacksonville did not allow the letdown to hamper it in the final game, but the NP combination of Emily Long to Kiarra Evans was too much for the Lady Devils to handle as the visitors closed out the match with a 25-22 victory.

“It was ugly on our part, I thought,” North Pulaski coach Ben Belton said. “(Jacksonville) did a great job. There were some long rallies, some great play on both sides. But we’re not playing very clean, and that enabled them to stick around. I don’t think we improved any during that whole recess, but they did. They improved every step. It’s a win. It’s an ugly win, but I’m just not happy with the performance.”

The win improved North Pulaski to 5-5 in Central Conference play while Jacksonville fell to 2-8.

The Lady Red Devils fed off of good crowd support to take early momentum in the second game. Junior Bailea Mitchell gave Jacksonville a 5-1 lead with an ace, and kills by Ashli Evans and sophomore Alexia Tolbert pushed the advantage to 13-4 before North Pulaski started to regroup.

Payton Mullen got the Lady Falcons going with a pair of kills, and a Makiyah Brown kill cut the deficit to 13-8. Mullen then took two assists from Long for kills that made it 14-10, but more errors kept Jacksonville out front until the final points.

Kiarra Evans recorded a kill that pulled the Lady Falcons to within 23-22, and a net ball by Jacksonville finally tied the score at 23. From there, an ace by Mullen and another kill by Evans secured it for North Pulaski for a 2-0 match lead.

“It’s our fault,” Belton said. “We didn’t do the things we should have done when we had an opportunity to have momentum. You go in, and you’ve got a chance to make some serves and hit the ball into the net, hit the ball out. One time, we served it under the net. You can’t do that. If you’re going to pound the ball, you’re going to hit some balls out. But serving, that’s just not acceptable.”

Serving went much better for the Lady Falcons in the first game. Four early aces helped North Pulaski jump out to an 8-5 lead, and play at the net also came together with kills by Raigen Thomas. Ashli Evans came back for Jacksonville with back-to-back kills that cut the Lady Falcons’ lead to 17-15 before a kill by Brown and another by Kiarra Evans made it 19-15.

Megan Lewis got the final ace of the game for the Lady Falcons to extend the advantage to 24-17, and another brief Jacksonville rally cut it to 24-21 before Thomas finally ended it for North Pulaski with a kill.

“I’m happy with Payton Mullen,” Belton said. “I thought she played outstanding, and Kiarra Evans, I thought she played outstanding.” But outside of that, I’m not happy with the performance. I thought Megan Lewis did a good job serving, and Emily played consistent. I expected more out of her service game, but they seemed to be able to return hers fairly easy. It just wasn’t very clean on our part.”

Kiarra Evans led Jacksonville with 11 kills while Long had 17 assists. Mullen added eight kills and four aces while Thomas added five kills and Brown had four kills.

For Jacksonville, Mitchell and Ashli Evans led with four kills each, while Terionna Stewart had four blocks.