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Volleyball: North coasts to first-round victory over Mill Creek
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North Forsyth junior Maddie McCafferty celebrates Tuesday during the Raiders' 3-1 win against Mill Creek. Photo by Sydney Jarrard for the Forsyth County News

For the first three sets of Tuesday's first-round playoff match against Mill Creek, North Forsyth didn’t look like itself.

Although the Raiders won the first two sets, it didn’t feel like the same team that played in the region tournament the week before.

That all changed in the fourth set.

The Raiders scored the first eight points, jumped out to a 16-2 lead, and won the fourth set 25-7, dominating the fourth set to earn a 3-1 match win.

North head coach Kelly Christensen felt like her team coasted to open the match.

“I feel like the first three sets, we were just trying to cruise,” Christensen said. “After region tournament play, we didn't really know what kind of competition to expect because our region is so high level. I feel like we were on cruise control. Then in that fourth set, we finally turned it on.”

After the Raiders dropped the third set 25-17, they were looking for a spark. According to Christensen, it wasn’t her that delivered the inspirational speech.

“They hear the same stuff from me all the time,” Christensen said. “Erika Ford, one of our main assistants, she kind of stepped in. She took that huddle after dropping that third set and just kind of challenged them. We can’t let this be a speed bump on our road during this big, long run we want to make in the state playoffs. For our girls, something clicked. I don’t know exactly what she said, but she lit a fire under them.”

Brooke Crummel, a first-team All-Area 6-7A, led the way 17 kills, including five in the deciding fourth set. Maddie McCafferty, a second-team selection, finished with nine kills for the Raiders.

The main issue for North was unforced errors. Through the first three sets, the Raiders gave up several points through their own mistakes. They’ll be looking to play every set like they did during the fourth set.

“Just being consistent,” Christensen said. “That’s kind of been our main thing all season. Just being consistent, controlling errors on our side. We can’t control what’s going on on the other side of the net — serving errors, hitting errors, being aware of what the score is.”

Nathalia Quintero and Lily Torrence also made the first team, and both had a big impact on the match that didn’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet.

“I feel like Natty, she just really stepped up as a leader for us tonight,” Christensen said. “Just kind of put the team on her back. Her and Lily did a great job leading and remaining consistent and fiery out there on the floor. I feel like the rest of the team just followed.”

North [32-11] advances to the second round of the Class 7A playoffs on Saturday, when the Raiders will face Region 8-7A winner Brookwood [29-19], a 3-0 winner over McEachern.