The Forsyth County volleyball landscape during the regular season was an intriguing one, with multiple teams building around young cores.
West Forsyth and North Forsyth’s squad each fit that bill, and on Tuesday, the Wolverines earned a 3-0 sweep of the Raiders in the Area 5-7A tournament, 25-20, 25-19, 25-17, to clinch a playoff berth. North’s season ends with a 21-19 overall record.
“I think when we took the first two sets it was a mental thing, 'Oh, we've got to beat them three times in a row,'” West head coach James Dickey said. “We got a good start and it's hard to come back. They did make a little push but we were able to close it out.”
What made it even harder for North to mount a comeback was a notable absence from its lineup. Kate Perryman, the Raiders’ leader in kills and a critical blocker at 6-foot-2, was out with a concussion. But even with all the points that North potentially missed out on with her gone, her absence was felt in other ways.
“It's so much more than her statistically,” North co-head coach Kelly Cecil said. “She's obviously great -- she leads us in kills, she's up there in digs ... She's become one of our key leaders too. You suddenly yank that from a team and it's like pulling the rug out from under them. We couldn't really get settled tonight. It's more of her leadership than anything else that we missed.”
Still, even without Perryman, North found ways to compete. Even with West going on a 6-0 run midway through the first set, the Raiders battled back towards the end to get to within five before the Wolverines went up 1-0.
North came the closest to winning a set in the second, when the Raiders battled to a 15-13 lead midway through. The Wolverines again found their rhythm, though, and taking advantage of some mistakes from the Raiders, they took the second set with a Natalie Morris kill that just stayed in bounds. West led for the entirety of the match’s third set.
“It's kind of been their thing all season -- when things are going well, things are going well,” Cecil said. “But when we faced a little bit if adversity, we kind of panicked a little bit. I think you just saw them panic a little too much tonight.”
Behind their young core of Morris, Abby Kingsbury and Reece Rhoads, among others, West will look to continue its run through the area tournament on Thursday, when they take on top-seeded Lambert. But no matter what happens, the Wolverines will be in the state playoffs, and for a team as young as his, Dickey knows that any experience is valuable.
“We've got a couple of freshmen starting, a couple of sophomores and they've just been getting better every time,” he said. “They're very coachable. What's neat is we get another week of practice, they get playoff experience. We play three good teams no matter what happens now.”