Hoggard 3 New Hanover 0
(25-16, 25-20, 27-25)
After rallying to a decisive fifth set victory in their first matchup this season, the Hoggard volleyball began the second half of its conference schedule with a strong performance as the Vikings grabbed a straight set 3-0 victory over New Hanover at Brodgen Hall.
Hoggard continued its dominance inside the Mideastern Conference, extending their win streak to 35 straight matches against league opponents, while improving to 9-0 in the division this season.
“We’re playing a lot better right now than we were earlier this season, but still have some things we need to clean up,” said Hoggard Coach Ron Strickland. “We relaxed a little bit after taking the first two sets, but you have to give credit to Mark Hafer. New Hanover is much improved and they have talent.”
Siblings Logan and Kirby Smith put in a huge effort throughout the contest on Thursday and it was only fitting the eldest (Logan) set up her younger sister for the pivotal kill to clinch a 27-25 result in the final game.
Kirby Smith finished with 13 kills, while Logan Smith added 21 assists. Senior hitter Meagan Trotta also came alive in the third set, with four of her 10 kills coming in crunch time to aid the Vikings.
Hoggard overcame six service errors in the opening game as the Wildcats took an early 9-7 lead before the Vikings used an 11-1 push to gain some breathing room thanks to a steady hand at the service line by freshman Mae Rowley. She had three aces in the set to help give Hoggard a 25-16 edge and an early lead.
“Kirby is a heavy hitter and I thought we were tough at the net tonight and picked up some big blocks, which I think intimidated them a little bit,” Strickland added.
New Hanover battled through the second set, which included 11 ties and 12 lead changes before Hoggard pulled out a 25-20 victory. Alyssa Gowdy kept the Wildcats in the match with three straight points to grab a two-point cushion early the game until a service error handed momentum back to the visitors from Shipyard Boulevard.
With the set tied 15-all, the Vikings made a 6-1 spurt as Logan Smith set sophomore Kaeley Pollock for her first kill of the match, while Pollock and Kirby Smith brought a strong presence at net during the push to eventually give Hoggard a 21-16 advantage. Hannah Dunlop ultimately set Trotta for the game-winner and the commanding 2-0 cushion.
Olivia Freeman also played a big role in the attack for the Vikings with 10 assists, while Freeman and Madie Schider combined for 23 digs.
“The competition is tough this year,” said Strickland. “More kids are playing the sport more often through club volleyball and in high school. It gives them more opportunities to learn, play and sharpen their skill set. To me the two go hand in hand. In some areas of the country, club volleyball and high school battle. High school programs are strong here because of the extra playing time the girls get and it’s fun to watch during the high school season because of it.”
An 8-1 run in the third and final set forced a New Hanover timeout, with the Wildcats trailing 11-16 after an ace by Logan Smith. Nine unforced errors by the Vikings during the final stages of the game allowed the Wildcats to creep back into the contest and eventually tie things up at 24-24, when Hoggard went to their heavy hitter to seal the victory.
New Hanover fell to 4-4 in conference and 11-4 overall. Both teams return to the floor on Tuesday, October 6.