LAURINBURG — There was a moment in the third game of Wednesday’s conference championship match where it looked like Scotland’s streak of eight conference titles was in danger of slipping away. Pinecrest, who gave Scotland its only conference loss of the season, had just won the second game and was leading the third 19-15.
Up until that point the third game had been back-and-forth, with both teams trading points and unable to create much of a gap. With the Patriots up four and threatening to take the lead in the match, Scotland coach Molly Hayes called a timeout.
“Sometimes the girls just need a second to realize the other team’s up and it’s time to turn it on, time to light it up,” Hayes said. “That happened last night (Tuesday). They came from behind when they just refocused, took a breath to relax and played the game they needed to.”
Scotland came out of their huddle with a new energy, forcing Pinecrest into errors and getting two key aces from Ashleigh Bailey to win that game 25-23.
The Scots, who won the opening game 25-15, went on to win game four 25-21 to clinch their ninth consecutive conference title.
Hayes said her side always plays at their best in high-paced games, and they definitely had one on their hands against Pinecrest. The game was played at a frantic pace for most of the evening.
“They play good in practice when they’re going against coaches and each other because it’s very fast-paced and that’s what it was tonight. Pinecrest is a great team. They have good hitters, great passers,” Hayes said. “That’s when they perform their best, when it’s close and intense and at a high-level.”
This is Hayes’ first year at the helm of the program, although she has been an assistant for several years. Emily Coleman was hired to replace longtime coach Mark Barnes this summer but took another position almost immediately. Then Hayes took over.
“It’s almost like I can exhale now from holding my breath all season. I’ve been around Scotland volleyball for six years so it wasn’t as hard of a transition as I thought it would be at times, and sometimes it was more challenging to keep them motivated,” Hayes said. “It’s exciting as a first year coach to have a great team and to play well.”
Madeline Milholland leads all Scotland players with 19 kills. She also contributed on defense with 19 digs. Katelyn Hunt added 11 kills and Jessie Kee had five. Avery Callahan lead the team in assists with 35. Bailey collected 16 digs and five aces while completing 19 of her 29 passes to target.
The Scots will have today off before starting the state playoffs on Saturday, when they host East Wake. Hayes said the team will work on a cleaning up a few things on offense and defense before that match.
“We’ll just go in fixing our fundamentals so no matter what they give us we’ll be in the right position at the right time and communicating well. If those things are strong we’ll play strong,” Hayes said.
Unlike football where film of opposing teams is readily available, volleyball coaches often don’t know what they’ll be going up against until game time.
Saturday’s match begins at 1 p.m. at Scotland’s gym.