Saturday, October 31, 2009

North Meck stops Hopewell, moves to volleyball semifinals

HUNTERSVILLE -- Eleven days ago, players on the North Meck High volleyball team learned an invaluable lesson from their cross-town rivals at Hopewell High.

They learned they could be beaten.

“That stuck with us,” senior Ali Cooke said, after the Vikings avenged that Oct. 21 loss with a straight-set, 25-18, 25-23, 25-20 victory over the Titans on Saturday, advancing to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.

It might have been just the lesson the Vikings needed to learn on Saturday, as their senior-laden team focused not only on its cross-town rival but on the fact they had advanced to the quarterfinals each of the past three seasons only to be eliminated.

“This was our goal, to make it to the semifinals,” senior setter Blair Atkinson said. “This was what we wanted.”

Cooke and Atkinson were just two of the players who played key roles, as North Meck (25-2) moves into Tuesday’s state semifinal match-up against Ardrey Kell, a team the Vikings defeated in the season opener on Aug. 18.

“We’re a much better team now than we were then,” Atkinson said.

Cooke led the way with 16 kills while Atkinson had 31 assists. Another senior, Sarah Wiese, continued her great post-season play with 13 kills, seven blocks and 23 service points, including seven aces. It was Wiese who served the Vikings out of an 8-6 deficit and into a 17-8 lead in the first game.

“She has played the four best games of her career the last four games,” North Meck coach Sandi Skidmore said, referring to the Vikings’ post-season run.

In games two and three, North Meck trailed by seven points in both games but staged impressive comebacks.

Hopewell coach Rhonda Auman acknowledged that her tame made mistakes, but said the issue on Saturday had more to do with how good North Meck was rather than the mistakes her young team made.

“You almost have to have a perfect game to beat them,” said Hopewell coach Rhonda Auman, whose team finished 21-6. “They just don’t ever get rattled.”
Several times, the Titans appeared to be on the verge of turning games around. Each time, the Vikings responded.

The Titans got solid games from senior Chaniel Nelson, juniors Hannah Early, Hunter Meakin, Caroline Hughes and Adrian Eppley and freshman Rachel Eppley, but their lack of experience may have been the difference.

“I feel bad for Chaniel,” Auman said, of Nelson, who will play next season on scholarship at North Carolina. “But we really had a phenomenal season.”
-- Denny Seitz, Special Correspondent