The Mount Airy volleyball team used some team-bonding time before their first round match against Pine Lake Preparatory to get in the right mental state for a long playoff run.
Playing pool and coming together as a team Saturday morning turned out to be the perfect medicine for the Lady Bears’ recent run of losses heading into the playoffs. Mount Airy (20-5) looked strong from start to finish, blitzing the Pride in a 3-0 sweep as the Bears advanced to the second round.
“This was what we were looking for,” Mount Airy coach Chuck Morris said. “We worked hard all season to get a nice seed… It was good for us to get back at home. We had a couple of good practices this week, and it was good for the girls to just air it out (Saturday).”
A sloppy start to the first set ended in the most lopsided result of all three frames. Mount Airy led 5-4 in the opener when Abby Harold spurred the Lady Bears on a 15-point run to extend their advantage to 20-4.
Katie Hicks and Sadire Brooks powered Mount Airy during this stretch. Both ladies had three kills, and Hicks chipped in two blocks.
Hicks led the Lady Bears with seven kills and 10 blocks on Saturday, while Brooks and Madeline Mayfield followed her with six kills.
Mount Airy once again got off to a slow start in the second set and trailed Pine Lake (10-11) 9-6, but the Lady Bears turned it around behind Sarah Lankford’s serve.
Coach Morris noted Lankford can produce a variety of effective serves, and the junior put her abilities on display in the second frame with five aces. She engineered a seven-point run on her serve that gave Mount Airy a 15-9 lead, and the Lady Bears held on for a 25-19 win.
Fittingly enough, the final point of the second set came on a precise short serve from Lankford that resulted in an ace.
“It’s really nice to serve like that, especially for the people in the front row,” Lankford said. “When you know you have a dominant server back there, the blockers say ‘alright Sarah, you keep it up and we will do our thing and have your back.’”
Lankford produced an all-around game for the Lady Bears on Saturday. The conference Player of the Year only played in two sets, but recorded 10 digs, 16 assists to go with her second-set aces.
“They were gunning for (Lankford),” Morris said. “The easiest way to take a team out of system is to take their setter out on first contact, so they went at her a bunch. But 10 digs and only one error, so that was really good defense from her.”
The third set was another Mount Airy romp as the Lady Bears cruised to a 25-11 win. Coach Morris got his reserves plenty of playing time, allowing setter Alle Sechrist and middle hitter Alex Holder to make an impact.
After a 1-4 close to the season, Mount Airy will look to keep the momentum from its win on Saturday rolling into the second round. The Lady Bears will face Gray Stone Day on Tuesday, with the time to be decided later in the week.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16