That’s a playoff winner!

Lady Knights escape Crossroads, advance to NCISAA 1-A 3rd round

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The Greenfield School varsity volleyball team continued to harvest the spoils from its first appearance in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association playoffs in 13 years in the Greenfield gym Thursday evening.

Guided by the junior tandem of Kaelyn Wall and Caroline Stone, the Lady Knights of the Coastal Plain Independents Conference outlasted Crossroads Christian of Henderson by a count of 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-14, 15-12 in the second round of the 16-team 1-A playoffs.

As the No. 5 seed, the Lady Knights (8-8) drew a first-round bye and advanced into the quarterfinals against No. 4 Northwood Temple of Fayetteville at 2 p.m. Saturday. Crossroads exited with a 5-15 record.

“If we don’t advance any farther, I already feel like we’ve won the whole thing,” exclaimed elated Greenfield coach Jadelyn Castillo. “It’s a huge win for Greenfield volleyball.”

A win that required grinding and soul-searching. 

Both teams pounded the other’s vulnerable areas and each struggled to defend short balls. Errors came in streams and serve-receiving was anything but automatic.

The teams split the first two sets and the Lady Knights owned a 20-12 cushion in the third set — when the Colts surged to victory to lead 2-1 in sets.

“We love the tension,”suggested Castillo. “When we get up, we get too comfortable. We relax too much. We’re working on it, but it’s something we have dealt with off and on all season.”

After the third set, the Lady Knights heeded the “fire and inspiration” of Castillo’s words.

“Coach really inspired us,” commented Wall, who turned in a dynamic all-around performance along with Stone. “She told us we had to have fire under our feet. After we got the energy up, that really helped.”

Said Castillo: “The last game was about fire and wanting it more than they wanted it. It was about keep playing.”

After several ties at the outset of the fourth set, the Lady Knights spurted to 14-9 and 20-12 cushions with senior Sumer Hassan and Mary Margaret Coats and freshman Gabrielle Vester complementing Wall and Stone. Stone’s block forced the decisive fifth set.

The fifth-set score was deadlocked seven times and the Colts once led by a point behind the trio of senior Kelce Anderson, junior Kaylee Davis and senior Tiffany Steffensen.

Greenfield spurted to a 13-9 edge. But Crossroads drew as close as 13-12 before Wall’s serve and Stone’s winning hit produced a Greenfield celebration.

“We were down at first (in the final set),” Wall admitted. “But coach called a time-out and told us we could win the game — and we did. That last set was about our hits from the front row and everybody hustling for the ball and never giving up.”

Crossroads stunned Greenfield onlookers at the start with Davis and Steffenson combining to lead it to 8-0 and 10-2 advantages. But Greenfield charged to an 18-17 edge behind Coats’ serving and a kill from Stone. The Colts then stormed from a 22-19 deficit to go out front 23-22 and seized the set on a pair of kills from Anderson.

The Lady Knights, in the second set, slipped from a 6-6 deadlock to 12-8 and 20-15 margins.Vester’s ace and Wall’s hitting sealed set No. 2.

Greenfield started sharp in the third set, tearing to 5-0, 17-9 and 20-12 leads. Crossroads pulled off the comeback behind Anderson’s serving and Davis’ kill.

“I have never seen momentum swings so big,” expressed Crossroads coach Greg Hardy. “I thought we had them on the ropes, but their girls really battled. We left it all on the floor and I was very proud.”

The Lady Knights were exuberant.

“This is the first time in 13 years Greenfield has made it to the playoffs,” Wall reminded. “This was fun; these are the best games when they are fun.”

Added Castillo: “This is my third year and it has been a process. We lost a few players at the beginning and the jayvee team had to step it up. I am more than satisfied.

“The girls are finally understanding love for the game and not volleyball just being something to put on their college application. If we accomplish that, we do good.”

Now, Greenfield is one of eight teams with a shot at the state title.