LAURINBURG — The Union Pines volleyball team split its first two contests against Southeastern Conference competition in the past week, but against Scotland Monday, the Vikings tallied its second victory against an SEC foe.
Union Pines defeated Scotland 25-22, 25-20, 25-23 to improve to 2-2 while Scotland dropped its first game of the season, falling to 2-1.
The Vikings lost to Pinecrest in its season opener last Tuesday before sweeping Richmond Wednesday.
“Union Pines is a good team, we knew they were going to be a tough opponent coming in,” said Scotland coach Molly Hayes. “Very well-coached team, good defensive and offensive team — the girls you can tell are very in sync.”
The Vikings’ experience and size on the front line proved to be too much for the Scots, who were forced to play catch up from the opening serve.
Union Pines dominated the early stages of the first set, jumping out to a 13-7 lead thanks to a few Scotland service errors. The Scots were never able to consistently maintain possession of the ball while the Vikings excelled on their serving points.
The Vikings built a 20-11 advantage before Scotland put together a string of victories to draw within as many as two points. Holding onto a 24-22 lead, Union Pines scored the crucial final point it needed to close out the game.
As was the case for most of the contest, Union Pines controlled the front line with its size as Stephanie Johnson (6-2) and Abby Vacha (6-0) notched a number of solo blocks and forced the Scots to change their offensive strategy. Hayes said she thought her team did a good job for the most part in adhering to the gameplan Scotland coaches preached in practice leading up to the game, but she wasn’t pleased with the team’s mental toughness at times.
“I think we had a few moments where we had some lack of effort and where we weren’t ready to play,” she said. “It’s hard to stay highly motivated with the way the game is going and we saw a little bit of that. We saw a little of their age as sophomores and juniors versus a team of seniors and juniors. That playing experience really comes into play.”
In the second set, Union Pines took a 13-8 lead before Scotland rebounded to eventually take its first lead of the game by winning eight of the next 10 points.
But the Vikings didn’t stay down long, as coach Toni Douglas-Boney’s team won nine of the next 10 points to take a commanding 24-17 advantage en route to the second set victory.
For the first time in the match, the Scots started out fast in the third set thanks to improved serving. A number of Scotland players, including Kaitlin Lewis, notched aces to keep the Scots in front. With the score 12-9 in favor of Scotland, the two teams traded points until Union Pines took control at the end of the game once more.
Down 22-19, the Vikings won six of the next seven points to finish off the sweep of the Scots. Amaya Pegues’s attempt to hit it to the open spot in the Union Pines defense sailed into the net, ending Scotland’s chances at a comeback.
Kenleigh Callahan had three aces and 10 digs for Scotland while Lewis also tallied six and 10 digs. Amaya and Nahir Pegues racked up five kills apiece, Mason Roberts had eight digs and Emma Gray Beacham dished out 15 assists.
Scotland will return to action Wednesday at Whiteville.
“When you play games like this, it gives you a checklist of things you need to work on in practice,” Hayes said. “The girls know it, I know it, and that’s what we’ll focus our practice on the rest of this week.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.