The North Forsyth volleyball team's win over Lambert on Tuesday night was plenty important just in the context of this season. It put the Raiders in first place in Area 5-7A, at 4-0, and showed that they could indisputably stick with the Longhorns, their main competition in the area this year.
Their victory was bigger than that, though. By beating Lambert, 25-20, 11-25, 25-13, 25-12, the Raiders took another step towards being among the premier volleyball programs in the county, upsetting a balance that had leaned heavily towards Lambert and South Forsyth in recent years.
"It's a program win," Raiders coach Kelly Cecil said. "All these years, (it's been) Lambert, South. You wonder, going into it, are our girls going to have that mental block? They don't ever seem that way, but you always wonder ... When it comes down to push and shove, are they going to perform?"
North had already shown its convincing superiority over the War Eagles, beating them in an easy three-set sweep on Sept. 13. Lambert was going to be more a difficult opponent, North knew, with many of the Longhorns' leading hitters from last year coming back and their overall strength showing in a 23-10 record heading into Tuesday's match.
The Raiders soon saw exactly what they were contending with: After the relatively tight first set, the Longhorns (23-11, 3-1 Area 5-7A) barreled through the second, coming a point away from holding North (32-4, 4-0 Region 5-7A) to single digits.
"We knew they were definitely going to come out with big swings -- we talked about that before the game," Raiders senior Maddie Bryant said. "We just have to not let it get to us. We always say that, but sometimes we let it get to us a little bit too much."
That didn't happen on Tuesday. North's head coaching duo of Drew and Kelly Cecil said every part of the team's game was working on Tuesday, but Kelly Cecil made sure to remark on the Raiders' composure in particular.
"Our composure was so good," Cecil said. "It was very easy (to think) after that second set that our girls could have just crumbled, and they came together and they fought. All the credit to our girls."
The Raiders won the first point of the third set and didn't trail for a single point after that. The win over the Longhorns wasn't an unprecedented one for North's seniors -- the Raiders beat Lambert in 2014, when they were freshmen -- but the fact that the Longhorns are closer to North's caliber this year made it especially satisfying for Bryant.
"This is probably one of the best feelings we've felt in a while," Bryant said.