EAHS looks ahead to three matches next week

Eastern Alamance sophomore volleyball player Tanyla Smith (left) had two key blocks during a point in Thursday's home match with Northern Guilford. The Eagles had a set point opportunity, leading 24-23, but EAHS lost the last three points to the Nighthawks, allowing NGHS to sweep the Eagles. Eastern returns to action next week with road matches against Williams and Rockingham, and a home match with Morehead.  

Eastern Alamance’s young volleyball squad had a chance to make a move in the Mid-State Conference standings with a pair of home matches against Person County and Northern Guilford this week, but the Eagles came up short against two of the better teams in their league. 

On Tuesday, October 1, EAHS was swept by Person, the Mid-State Conference leaders, in a three-set match. The Eagles then came back two days later and lost another home match, 3-0, to Northern Guilford. 

The Eagles fought to stay competitive against the Rockets, who entered the match with a 12-1 overall record and a perfect 8-0 mark in league play. EAHS improved over the course of the three sets, but were unable to pull off the upset, falling by scores of 25-9, 25-14, and 25-15. 

EAHS was hopeful for a better outcome against the Nighthawks, who came to Mebane with an 8-8 overall record, and a 5-4 conference mark. The Eagles could have tied NGHS in the league standings with a win, but some miscommunication early on by the Eagles helped Northern Guilford jump out to a 9-5 lead in the opening set, leading to a timeout by EAHS head coach Rebecca Wood. 

Northern Guilford kept applying the pressure, building its lead to 19-9 on an ace, and then 21-9 on a putback directly over the net. Another ace made the score 22-9, and then an out-of-bounds spike attempt by the Eagles gave the Nighthawks match point at 24-9. 

Eastern fought hard for its first life set, winning a spirited back-and-forth volley to get the serve back trailing, 24-10. Three subsequent points got the Eagles within 24-13, but Northern Guilford finally got the winning point for a 25-13 win. 

Although Northern Guilford broke off an 11-6 lead in the second set, the Eagles rallied behind server Ryan Foy, who pulled Eastern within 11-9 before the Nighthawks regained the momentum. The Eagles were within 14-11 before Northern busted off four straight points to take a commanding 18-11 cushion, and force another EAHS timeout. 

With the score 23-15, the Nighthawks got a strange cross-the-court shot that just managed to sail over the net, giving NGHS a commanding set point lead, 24-15. And while the Eagles held the Nighthawks off for a single point, a short serve from EAHS went into the net, which gave Northern the second set by a 25-16 count. 

The Eagles played with a sense of urgency early in the third set, playing NGHS to a 5-4 score in the beginning. The Nighthawks briefly jumped out to an 11-6 lead, but the serving of Maddie Lawson brought EAHS back within 11-9. The Eagles continued to hold their own, tying the set 15-15, and then taking the lead on a hard-fought volley, in which NGHS finally spiked the ball out of bounds.

Northern Guilford tied it at 16-16, and then the teams began trading points, with Eastern taking the lead, and then Northern rallying to tie. Lawson lofted a soft shot over would-be NGHS blockers for a 18-17 Eagles lead, and then Kamari Mims picked up an ace for Eastern, giving the home squad a 20-17 advantage. 

Freshman Mollie Lawson served the Eagles to a 22-18 advantage before the Nighthawks regained the ball. A Northern Guilford block at the net pulled NGHS within 22-20, and then a successful spike pulled the visitors from Greensboro within one point, 22-21. Fortunately for the Eagles, however, the Nighthawks misplayed a shot near the net, giving the ball back to EAHS with a 23-21 lead. 

The Eagles had a chance to put it away and force a fourth set, but Northern Guilford got the service back trailing, 23-22. On a critical point, the Eagles were unable to get the shot they wanted, and the Nighthawks tied it, 23-23. 

On another long back and forth, Tanyla Smith came up with two huge blocks on the same volley, with the second block giving the Eagles set point, 24-23. But the Nighthawks came up with a clean shot over the EAHS defense in the back corner, knotting things up at 24-24. 

Then came an unlucky break for the Eagles, as an attempted service return made contact with a rafter and bounded away from the EAHS setters, giving Northern Guilford match point. A subsequent spike gave the Nighthawks a 26-24 victory, and the Eagles had another tough loss. 

Although the setback to the Nighthawks dropped EAHS to 7-8 overall and 4-6 in Mid-State Conference play, the Eagles have a chance for redemption with a series of three matches next week. Eastern will travel to Williams for a non-conference match on Monday before traveling to Wentworth to face Rockingham County on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Eagles will host Morehead at home back in Mebane. 

Williams, Rockingham, and Morehead each have losing records, which gives the Eagles a golden opportunity to get on a winning streak and some momentum heading into two huge matches to close out the regular season - Senior Night against Western Alamance Tuesday, October 15, and the regular season finale at McMichael on Thursday, October 17.