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Volleyball: Beyer's big night helps Lambert past North
Lambert junior Ella Beyer celebrates after a kill Thursday during a 3-1 win against North Forsyth. - photo by David Roberts

A region championship was hanging in the balance the last time Ella Beyer faced North Forsyth.

The circumstances were markedly different Thursday evening, but Beyer's intensity remained the same. 

So did the result.

Beyer collected 19 kills against the Raiders, including six in the decisive fourth set, as Lambert beat North 3-1 to keep its perfect region record intact.

"It was awesome," Beyer said. "A lot of my motivation came from last year. Last year's game against North was absolutely insane. It was the region championship, and it was amazing. I had the mindset going in that they can't think that we've let up on them at all. I still have some friends on that team, so some friendly competition which is a lot of fun."

There are few parallels to draw from last year's victory to the latest edition.

For instance, the Longhorns won that match 3-0. This time around North won the second set, using a couple of Brooke Crummel kills sandwiched between two aces by Nathalia Quintero to fuel a 7-0 run and secure a 25-21 win, evening the match 1-1.

Also different, Beyer had just five kills on 14 chances a year ago. On Thursday, she exploded for a match-high 19 kills and hit an astounding .529.

"That hitting percentage has been something that she's been working on all season. It was so impressive," Lambert head coach Missey Hall said. "She was taking those chances, where maybe at the beginning of the season there might have been a little tentativeness, and she went out and did it tonight. I'm so proud of her."

Beyer was unstoppable in the fourth set, stringing together back-to-back-to-back kills at one point, turning a six-point lead into a 19-10 advantage and forcing a North timeout. Beyer added two more kills to close out the set.

Setter Claire Jenkins was nearly flawless running the offense, spreading the ball to Beyer on the outside, in addition to setting up the Longhorns' middle hitters.

"Claire has been an amazing setter," Beyer said. "She always puts consistent sets on the board, especially when we have those good passes. Our passing definitely went down a little bit in the second set, but as always, we came back up in the third and fourth sets, which was awesome."

Jordan White added 12 kills and Taylor Nelson had 11.

"Having a 5-1 setter is something that I've dreamed of," Hall said. "We normally have athletes setting as opposed to true setters. Claire can run the offense, and she runs it confidently."

North stuffed the first two Lambert attempts at the net, with a pair of Melina Baumann blocks setting the tone for a competitive match. 

But the Longhorns recalculated their attack and found matchups away from the middle of the net, allowing players such as Nelson and Dani Cortes to see chances. 

"We knew they were going to block well," Hall said. "Through film, we knew they were going to block well. Honestly, we're not used to getting blocked that much."

The loss marks the Raiders' first in area play and just their second since the beginning of the month. North opened area play last week with a 3-1 win against Forsyth Central.

"We were just a totally different team from where we were the other night when we were playing at Central," North head coach Kelly Christensen said. "I just feel like our youth showed tonight. We didn't adjust and we just kind of froze. No discredit to Lambert; they played a great game. They always do, and they're always prepared for us."

Lambert had its own encounter with Central on Tuesday, as the Bulldogs pushed the Longhorns to five sets. 

"I'm going to be honest: I was a little concerned about that," Hall said. "I mean, playing five strong, high-scoring matches. Central played so incredible, and they made us work for every single point. We were down 2-0 and had to fight back."

North [24-8, 2-1 Area 6-7A] will look to rebound at 6 p.m. Tuesday at home against Gainesville. 

Lambert [21-6, 3-0 Area 6-7A] will step out of area play Tuesday and travel to Roswell before hosting West Forsyth at 6 p.m. Thursday.

"We're racing for state this year. It's gonna be awesome," Beyer said. "I'm so excited. We have so much potential, and we're such a young team. Ally Hall and Bella Tolone were here my first two years, so it was really nice to grow with this team over the summer and into the season."