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Volleyball: Central's season ends with Area 5-7A tournament loss to Milton
Natalie Roberts
Forsyth Central's Natalie Roberts gets set to hit the ball over the net during the Bulldogs' Area 5-7A tournament matchup with Milton on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 at Lambert High School. - photo by David Almeda

Forsyth Central’s volleyball team spent its entire 2019 season coming close.

Time and time again, though, the Bulldogs weren’t quite close enough. Central finished its regular season Area 5-7A slate 0-6, but it wasn’t like Central was blown out every game: They lost to North Forsyth and South Forsyth 3-2, with the latter matchup being particularly competitive.

On Wednesday night, the Bulldogs had another chance to finally grab their first area win since 2015, but although they again initially put up a good fight, opposing Milton ultimately took a 3-0 victory, 25-23, 25-15, 25-14 in the first round of the Area 5-7A tournament at Lambert High School. The loss ended Central’s 2019 season at 18-18 overall.

 The Bulldogs’ first set of the night was its most competitive, as they kept pace with the Eagles throughout. Central took its first lead at 10-9, and a kill from Sarah Pipping extended the Bulldogs’ edge to 11-9.

“In our first game I think we played really motivated, very level-headed and very intentional,” Central head coach Brian Welsch said. “We came in with a game plan to serve well and pass well, and everything that we were doing was working.”

But eventually, the Bulldogs began to misplay some balls and Milton began to draw to within one, tying the game at 22-22 before coming away with the close come-from-behind win.

“We gave up a little bit of a lead and a little bit of a point run in the middle,” Welsch said. “Volleyball is a huge momentum sport. Any time you lose momentum, the only way to turn the tables is to gain a little bit back. I thought we fought pretty hard point for point. When you get to 22-22, you don't have room to make many mistakes.”

For the rest of the match, Central couldn’t quite recapture that much-needed momentum and played mostly from behind. Milton put together multiple runs in the second and third set, which catapulted them to their victory.

“Giving up five or six at a time is killer,” Welsch said. “It's deadly when the game's a 50-50 tossup. You can't give up five or six points in a row and expect to stay in it from a points standpoint, let alone from a mentality standpoint.”

Despite the way the season ended, 2019 was the best season the Bulldogs have had under Welsch. They’ll have to retool a bit with seven seniors set to depart, but even without them, Central’s quest to take the next step will just continue.

“It's the getting over the hump that is driving myself as well as the players nuts,” Welsch said. “At the end of the day, at some point, we have to break through. I don't doubt our ability to reload but this one's going to sting a little bit.”