It was clear from early in Mount Airy’s first-round match of the NCHSAA 1A state volleyball playoffs that their opponent wasn’t used to facing opposition of the caliber of the Lady Bears and many of their opponents.
The Lady Bears have spent the season facing high-quality opposition and often besting it, and when set came to spike on Wednesday evening, Mount Airy’s passing and overall skill level were too much for Blue Ridge Early College Academy.
Mount Airy advanced to tonight’s second round and improved its season record to 22-5 with an 25-9, 25-16, 25-14 victory over visiting Blue Ridge, a charter school from Cashiers that qualified for the postseason after tying Hiwassee Dam for first place in the Smoky Mountain 1A Conference.
The victory took only about an hour to complete, and saw Lady Bears’ head coach Chuck Morris get everyone into the the match for some playoff experience.
“They had a long way to travel, and you could tell their legs were pretty tired,” said Morris. “We played nice and relaxed, and that’s all we were looking for tonight. We knew we couldn’t just go through the motions, but we did want to stay relaxed. There’s a lot way to go (in the playoffs).”
The victory advances the Lady Bears to the second round, and also keeps them in the same league. Mount Airy will make a 285-mile bus ride to Hiwassee Dam for tonight’s second round of the tournament. Hiwassee advanced with a 25-19, 25-19, 25-16 victory over visiting Chatham Central on Wednesday. The Lady Eagles (15-7) faced Blue Ridge three times during the regular season, trading straight-set wins on each other’s court before Hiwassee nailed down the top seed with a straight-set win by a total of seven points on Oct. 19.
The biggest concern for Mount Airy, which has a much higher MaxPreps rating than the Lady Eagles, may be dealing with the same kind of long bus ride that Morris admitted was a problem for the Lady Bears’ guests on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a six-hour ride,” he said. “I think we’ll handle the trip OK. We’ve done it before. I think we’re mentally prepared to take a trip like this, and they’ll let us out early enough to where we can take a rest before we play.”
Sadie Brooks led the Lady Bears with 11 kills, followed by Madeline Mayfield and Arry Ward with 10 each. Most of those came off passes from Sarah Lankford, who was credited with 30 assists.