LAURINBURG — “It doesn’t take much, a few points are big in volleyball.”
As Scotland volleyball coach Molly Hayes put it, the difference between winning and losing is small.
And regardless of how well the Scots played at times during Tuesday’s Southeastern Conference matchup with Pinecrest, they fell short of notching a pivotal win on their home floor as the Patriots rolled to the 25-20, 25-23, 25-23 victory.
Pinecrest coach Barbara Foxx earned her 700th career victory at the expense of Hayes and the Scots, who had to watch the visiting coach receive a decorative banner from her players to commemorate the feat.
The Patriots scored the first point of the game, though Scotland answered to take a 8-5 early lead against the defending SEC champions. But Pinecrest rallied to regain control midway through the set and went on to win it 25-20.
“I think that in game one, we didn’t come out as aggressive and smart as we needed to, we played a little bit lax,” Hayes said. “They had some good shots that they put down on us, our short game coverage was poor in the beginning.”
Scotland cleaned up its play in the second set, again jumping out to an early advantage thanks to momentum-building plays, none bigger than a solo block by Amaya Pegues. She and her twin sister, Nahir Pegues, each had two solo blocks to stymie the Pinecrest attack, but unforced errors by Scotland’s hitters allowed the Patriots to close the gap once more.
“During timeouts I told them we need to clean it up, make good decisions and we need to win some points and some volleys,” Hayes said. “We were unable to do that. We’ve been working on it in practice, we’ve been working on it every time we play and hopefully it’ll come together towards the end of the season but right now it showed.”
Down 18-15, Pinecrest quickly tied the game at 19-all before taking the lead after a key block from Miriam Pages. The Patriots extended their advantage to 24-20 and held off a late Scotland surge when Veronica Stringfield ended the game with a kill.
“Scotland played a good game, they had hitters that hit the ball at us and their setter was very smart at getting the ball over when we were out of position, and we came back with some good hits,” Foxx said. “Once we got some good passes, we attacked the ball more aggressively.”
In the third set, the action played out similarly to the first two games. Scotland took the early lead at 13-8 before a string of serving mistakes and unforced errors prompted another Patriots comeback.
Pinecrest tied the game at 14, then both teams traded points until the score was 23-all. However, miscommunication on the Scots’ defense resulted in another Pinecrest point, then Stringfield ended the match with her second straight game-ending kill.
Kaitlin Lewis paced Scotland with 10 kills and she also had 19 digs. Nahir Pegues had seven kills, and Emma Gray Beacham stuffed the box score with six kills, 25 assists, four serving points and 10 digs. Mason Roberts led the Scots with 21 digs.
Foxx said she wasn’t expecting her players to break out the banner that read “The Big 700,” though she was reflective of her time with a program that she largely built from the ground up.
“I think about all of the talent that came through Pinecrest that I was blessed with the opportunity to coach,” Foxx said. “It’s a good feeling to be at one school for this long and it’s a good feeling to see the success the girls have come through with.”
Scotland dropped to 5-5 overall and 1-1 in the SEC with the loss while the Patriots improved to 5-5 and 2-0 in the SEC. The Scots will look to rebound Thursday when they welcome Hoke to Laurinburg.
“We hit way better in practice every week, we make better touches, we play harder in practice,” Hayes said. “For whatever reason, getting it to transfer over to Tuesday and Thursday nights is a struggle sometimes for athletes.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.