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Spectators who stay for the duration of Hunt-Fike high varsity volleyball matches don’t depart after three sets. Frequently, they find themselves exhorting their respective team in the maximum five sets.
However, visiting Hunt got the job done in four sets before the largest crowd of the season for both teams in the Fike High gym by a 25-14, 22-25, 25-23, 25-17 margin Tuesday evening.
The Lady Golden Demons could not shake serve-receive errors that plagued them in the first, third and fourth sets and dropped from a share of the 3-A Big East Conference lead.
In the first 2018 meeting of the archrivals, Hunt vaulted into second place with a 4-1 record and 7-7 overall mark. Fike dropped into third place at 3-1 and 8-6, respectively. Defending champion Franklinton is the front-runner at 4-0 and welcomes Fike in a rescheduled match Wednesday evening.
“It’s always a good win to beat Fike,” expressed acting Hunt head coach Matt Lemmons. “It’s always great.”
Commented Fike senior Reece Nelson of opposing the Lady Warriors: “It’s a different atmosphere. This was the best crowd we’ve had all season, and it’s definitely exciting. But it’s definitely disappointing; we did not play nearly to our potential. Moving forward, we can only go up.”
Fike appeared to be moving forward by recovering from the Lady Warriors’ impressive opening set to even the match.
In the third set, junior Brianna Moore served Hunt to a 4-0 start. Fike rallied to deadlocks of 5-5 and 10-10 behind Nelson and 6-foot-3 senior Ashleigh Sage. A Sage block boosted Fike ahead 11-10 and the margin grew to 15-11.
But after standoffs of 16-16 and 17-17, junior Meghan Martinez sparked Hunt back out front 20-19. The cushion reached 24-20. The Lady Demons crept as close as 24-23 before a kill from Hunt junior Greysen Evans ended the set.
From a 2-2 deadlock, Hunt forged a 5-2 edge in the fourth set. Senior Michaela Evans served the Lady Warriors to a 14-5 advantage. Fike rallied behind Sage, Nelson and junior Anna Black, closing the deficit to 16-15. A kill from Hunt sophomore Jessica Waddell finally halted the Fike flurry.
Then, Moore took over for the Lady Warriors. Fike struggled to handle her serves and a block from junior Alea Jones left Hunt one point shy of victory. Greysen Evans took care of that task with a well-placed, match-ending tip.
Of Hunt being in danger of squandering the lead, Moore admitted: “I was a little worried. We had to get up, but I had confidence we would because of the intensity we had.”
Moore acknowledged the impact of the crowd, adding: “I had to block everything out and just get my serves in. It was Hunt vs. Fike, and I had to block that out.”
Lemmons commended Moore’s improved technique in her effective serving, but she credited the support of her teammates.
“The more they can protect me, the more I can serve and get points for the team,” Moore reasoned.
Moore slammed nine aces among her 19 service points. She also led Hunt with 18 assists.
From a 15-6 margin in the opening set, Moore served Hunt to a 21-9 bulge. A Martinez kill ended the set.
The Lady Warriors became error-prone in the second set, and Fike experienced a confidence surge. Sage’s block and an ace from sophomore Kendall Harris sent the Lady Demons out front 16-10. The lead was again six points at 20-14. Hunt spurted, eventually tying the score at 22-22 on Martinez’s hit. But a service error proved the first of three consecutive Hunt miscues that ended the set.
“We gained confidence in the second set and our passes were so much better,” Nelson explained. “But, then, our serve-receive went down again. That starts the offense. That left us with nothing but defense. We had no offense.”
Nelson keyed Fike with 35 assists, 14 digs and seven service points. Sage wound up with five kills and four blocks. Black was the Fike leader with eight service points.
“We were shaky in the first set and we looked shaky again in the third and four sets,” first-year Fike head coach Brent Secrest reviewed. “We made too many errors. Hunt did what it needed to do. They put the ball in play and hustled after it. The better team tonight won.
“I thought our girls played hard. But they got down on themselves and it kind of snow-balled. We’ve have got to work on doing the little things a little bit better. We look forward to playing them again.”
For Hunt, senior libero Allyson Matthews sparkled with 23 digs, three aces and solid floor play. Martinez registered 12 kills, Michaela Evans 11, Waddell eight and Greysen Evans five.
“We played really good in spurts,” Lemmons assessed. “We just take too many times off. And I thought Fike killed us on hustle plays; they were going after everything.
“Overall, I am proud of the girls. But we want more production out of the middle. Once we take care of that and get the consistency we need, we’ll be good to go.”