Eastern advances to second round of Mid-State tourney with Western Alamance upset

Eastern Alamance’s volleyball program honored its two seniors - Madison Hartley and Ashleigh Taylor - in a pregame ceremony inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium prior to last week’s regular season home finale against Western Alamance. Hartley (left) and Taylor (right) were honored alongside their parents and EAHS head coach Rebecca Wood. The Eagles won the opening two sets against the Warriors, but lost a heartbreaking 3-2 match against their arch rivals from Elon. Eastern concluded the regular season last Thursday with a three-set loss at McMichael, but the Eagles got revenge on Western Alamance Monday evening in the first round of the Mid-State Conference tournament, three sets to one.

Eastern Alamance’s volleyball team hosted Western Alamance last Tuesday evening in its final regular season home match in Mebane. The Eagles, at 9-9 overall and 6-6 in Mid-State Conference play at the time, hugely needed a win over the Warriors. The Eagles had a chance for redemption against Western, who gave EAHS a crushing five-set loss in Elon earlier in the season. 

It was also a chance to send Eastern’s two seniors - Madison Hartley and Ashleigh Taylor - out with victories in their last regular season home match inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium. Prior to the match with the Warriors, Hartley and Taylor were honored with flowers alongside their parents and EAHS head coach Rebecca Wood. 

Western jumped out to an early 13-6 lead in the opening set, but Eastern showed some fight, pulling within 17-14 to force a Warriors timeout. Tanyla Smith got a spike to get EAHS within 20-18, and Loren Crabbe served the Eagles within a point, 20-19. 

Eastern kept pushing, as Addison Curl got a spike to make the score 22-22 and force yet another Western timeout. An excellent serve by Madison Hartley was hit once by Western and not returned for a 23-22 Eastern lead, and then the Eagles got a point from Kamari Mims to create set point. As the Eagles volleyed on set point, Reagan Hartley blasted a hard ball that hit the fingers of Western’s front line, but bounded behind the Warriors to give the Eagles the set, 25-22. 

The two teams played to a 10-10 stalemate over the initial 20 points of the second set, but Eastern began to pull away behind the serving of Crabbe, who got the Eagles a pair of points for a 14-12 lead, and then a third for a 15-12 advantage. An out of bounds return by the Warriors made it 17-12, and a beautiful cross-court shot by Curl made it 18-12. A combined block by Makiya Graves and Smith made the score 19-13 EAHS, and then Reagan Hartley served the home squad to a 20-13 advantage. The Eagles won the second set going away, 25-15. 

With their backs to the wall, Western came out strong early in the third set, as the Warriors built a 12-7 lead to force Wood into a timeout. The lead quickly escalated to 16-7, and Eastern eventually dropped the third set 25-10 to force a fourth set. The Eagles seized the early initiative in the crucial fourth set, building a 10-4 lead, and with Maddie Lawson serving, Madison Hartley and Smith came up with a combined block for an 11-4 EAHS lead. An out of bounds shot by Western made it 12-4 in favor of the Eagles. 

Eastern had a chance to put the Warriors away, but the visitors would get nine of the 11 next points to get back into the match. A spike by one of Western’s top front line standouts, senior Ayana Philbert, made the score 14-13 in favor of Eastern. A block by the Warriors tied the set at 16-16, and then a deep shot by the Eagles sailed just out of bounds along the far baseline, giving the Warriors the lead, 17-16. 

Lawson came through with a big scoring shot for the Eagles, tying it at 17-17, and then Kamari Mims came through with a spike for an 18-18 score, as the teams traded points. Crabbe came through with a shot that Western couldn’t return, and the Eagles had a 19-18 lead. With Mims serving, the Eagles got another point for a 20-18 lead. 

Reagan Hartley punched a shot over the net that wasn’t returned for a 21-19 lead, and the Eagles were four points away from victory. But the Warriors would stun the home crowd at EAHS by getting the set’s final six points, including two huge blocks at 21-20 and 21-21 that ultimately turned everything around. Western’s 25-21 fourth set win forced a tiebreaker. 

In the fateful tiebreaking fifth set - the second time this fall that the Eagles and Warriors have gone to the fifth set - the two teams had an epic opening point. With both teams eager to start the fifth set with a 1-0 advantage, the ball was returned back and forth at least 10 times before the Warriors got the point. 

A spike by Western’s Philbert made it 2-0, but then a shot out of bounds by the Warriors gave service back to the Eagles, trailing, 2-1. Taryn Shelton served the Eagles to a 3-2 lead, and then a spike by Crabbe gave EAHS a 4-2 lead. Some miscommunication by the Western front line led to an unforced error on the next point, and the Eagles had a 5-2 advantage. 

Western got a lucky break on a volley that hit the rafters, but then Maddie Lawson gave EAHS a 6-4 lead with a nifty backwards shot along the right end line. But the Warriors got three straight points for a 7-6 lead, which then turned into five straight points and a 9-6 Western lead. EAHS fought to regain the serve with a 9-7 deficit, but Western reeled off three more unanswered points, including back-to-back aces by Madison Eidson, and won the final set, 15-8.

The disappointed Eagles closed out regular season play Thursday night with a road match Thursday evening at McMichael. The Phoenix, who were holding their own Senior Night, had a chance to complete the regular season tied with Person for the Mid-State Conference championship. 

McMichael won its 12th straight match by humbling the Eagles in three sets by scores of 25-16, 25-8, and 25-21. The Phoenix finished tied atop the Mid-State standings with Person with identical 13-1 records. EAHS finished in fifth place in the conference standings with a 6-8 mark, and concluded the regular season with a 9-11 overall record.

The Eagles got some revenge, however, on Western Alamance by beating the Warriors on their home court Monday night in the opening round of the Mid-State Conference tournament.

EAHS avoided some of the key mistakes that cost them the first two times out against the Warriors, and put them away this time around. After dropping the first set 25-13 to the Warriors, the Eagles reeled off 25-18, 25-22, and 25-16 victories in three successive set to earn a four-set victory. With the win, EAHS improved to 10-11 overall, while earning a second round conference tournament matchup Tuesday at McMichael.