Northern Nash was embarrassed by its first meeting with Rocky Mount High.
It took a team meeting, re-focusing and some old-fashioned desperation, but the Knights looked like their old selves Thursday.
Northern Nash used a complete team effort this time around, defeating the Gryphons, 3-1, at Rocky Mount High School.
“The first time, we didn’t play how we should. We didn’t look like Northern Nash,” Northern Nash outside hitter Alexus Hill said. “This time we came to play.”
Like the first meeting, the Knights (6-4 Big East Conference) fell behind in the first set, prompting coach Patricia Haggerty to call two timeouts to calm down her team.
Unlike the first meeting, the Knights recovered.
After falling behind, 23-19, and coming within two points of dropping the first set, Northern Nash recorded five unanswered points to take the lead, then won the set, 26-24.
The Knights played with the verve they lacked in the first matchup against Rocky Mount (6-4).
“I told them before the game that we didn’t have anything to lose,” Haggerty said. “They played with some desperation. At that point, they had nothing else to do but give it all they had.”
The Gryphons weren’t nearly as sharp for this meeting.
The energy was there once again, but Rocky Mount coach Tabitha Wilcox said she believed the Gryphons expected the match to go much easier than it did.
“We had the energy, but I think we were overconfident,” Wilcox said. “We were overanxious in a lot of areas, and I thought it showed up in different parts of the game.
“We kind of broke down with our passing and with our serve receive.”
Northern Nash built a 9-2 lead to begin the second set, then never trailed by fewer than five points the remainder of the way, taking the set, 25-18.
Rocky Mount scored seven straight points midway through the third set to take command, though the Knights shortened the lead to one before the Gryphons earned a final point to win the set, 25-23.
Northern Nash crafted a 7-0 run of their own in the fourth set to take a 12-6 lead, then cruised the rest of the way.
The Knights showed a calmness with the lead they haven’t always had this season.
“We knew this was the end of conference, that this was for all the marbles,” Hill said. “We wanted to make sure we were in a good spot for the conference tournament.”
The Knights’ victory was made even more poignant because so many players took part in it.
Paige Price helped rescue the first set, recording three kills and a crucial ace to help the Knights stay alive.
Hill was dominant on the outside, constantly pressuring the Gryphons with her movement.
Camille Branch (10 kills) and Deja Lewis (7 kills) anchored a strong front line, while Claire Fleming (15 assists) did well to help set up the offense.
“It was a whole team effort,” Haggerty said. “The first game (against Rocky Mount), we didn’t play like the team we knew we were. We’re finally starting to show the team we should be.”
Northern Nash 3
Rocky Mount High 2
26-24, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com