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Fike falters against front-running Franklinton

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A week ago, the Fike High varsity volleyball team owned a 3-0 3-A Big East Conference record and possessed a share of the conference lead.

Four straight losses later, the Lady Golden Demons find themselves scrambling for the conference’s No. 3 spot in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.

The fourth loss in the last week was administered by conference-leading and reigning Big East champion Franklinton by a 25-18, 25-7, 25-19 count in the Fike High gymnasium Tuesday evening.

Fike tumbled into fourth place in the six-team conference at 3-4 and possesses an 8-9 overall record. The Lady Demons play their final nonconference match at home Wednesday evening against Charles B. Aycock.

The Lady Rams, in their second year in the conference, vaulted to 7-0 in the Big East and to 12-3 in all matches. Franklinton is without a defeat in 17 conference tests the last two seasons.

All of the Fike losses in the last week have come against upper-tier league teams.

“We’re hurting ourselves,” said first-year Fike head coach Brent Secrest.

“I will take the blame for tonight; I didn’t have them ready to play.

“But we’re getting into our heads. We get down and are not forgetting about the point that just happened. We are letting it snowball. It’s a confidence thing. We’ve got to regain (confidence) and do it quickly.”

The Lady Demons extended Franklinton four sets in the first meeting at Franklinton.

“I thought we played scared,” Secrest assessed the remath. “Their middle killed us. Franklinton played a whole lot better this time. I don’t think the ball hit the floor over there at all.”

Franklinton staggered Fike with a clinic-like second set. For the match, the Lady Rams committed only six service errors. Franklinton serves left the Lady Demons struggling. Lady Rams’ passes were crisp and seniors Amari Champion, although only 5-foot-6, and 5-10 newcomer LaRissa Johnson, a transfer from Oklahoma, were practically unstoppable at the net.

Senior Jerika Brodie led Franklinton with nine kills, followed by Johnson with eight and Champion with seven. Senior McKenna Huffman supplied four aces and seven kills. Junior Rebekah Speight tallied nine digs; junior Amber Rushing amassed 31 assists; and senior libero Syd Strickland accumulated 16 serve receptions. Johnson was praised for her most aggressive performance.

“Tonight, we stayed focused,” emphasized Franklinton head coach Crystal Barnes. “We did really well. The frontline was focused and the passes were there — that was the key. You get a pass up there and the options are limitless. It’s typical to kind of get complacent after winning a couple of sets but, this time, we stayed on it.”

The Lady Rams took command midway the opening set. Fike drew as close as 17-15 before the Lady Rams closed it behind the serving of Strickland and back-to-back,set-ending kills from Champion.

Senior Brit Davis, Champion, Rushing, Strickland and Huffman all served effectively in the second set, when the Lady Rams constructed 5-0, 8-1 15-3 and 20-4 leads. Champion’s ace ended the set.

From a 2-2 tie, Franklinton spurted to a 6-2 margin and never trailed again in the third set. Fike’s only lead of the match came on 6-3 senior Ashley Sage’s spike to open the final set.

The Lady Demons crept as close as 14-10, 16-12 on a Lady Rams’ service error, 21-17 on a Sage kill and 22-18 on a Sage kill. But Johnson’s deftly placed tip ended the match.

Fike leaders were Sage with five kills, senior Reece Nelson with six assists and five service points, junior Anna Black with 10 digs.

After the CBA match, Fike closes the regular season with three conference tests and Secrest declares: “We’ve got to win out.”

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