LAURINBURG — Scotland extended its winning streak to a season-best three games Tuesday night with a convincing sweep of Southern Lee.
The Scots cruised to wins in the first two games before mounting a comeback in the third set to defeat the Cavaliers 25-10, 25-15, 25-23.
“I think we came out with a little bit of a lack of effort and a lack of focus in game three,” Scotland coach Molly Hayes said after the win. “That team, they fought so hard. They gave us a lot of free balls back. They dug us, they dug us and they dug us and sometimes it’s hard to terminate a volley when you continue to get free ball after free ball.”
A rally in the final set appeared unlikely given the way the early stages of the match played out. Scotland coasted to the first set win after grabbing an early 11-4 lead. Southern Lee lost multiple points due to its defense — the Cavaliers struggled to communicate and were often caught out of position.
Kaitlin Lewis ended the first set with one of her team-leading 12 kills to help the Scots take a 1-0 advantage.
Much was the same in the second set as Lewis and twin sisters Nahir and Amaya Pegues outhit the Cavaliers and put pressure on the visitors’ defense. Scotland again took a commanding lead early and built it to 21-7 before Southern Lee finally found its footing.
Hayes subbed in some of her reserves to give them valuable playing time, but that allowed the Cavaliers to go on a mini-run before Nahir Pegues finished the game off with one of her four kills.
In what was the final set, Southern Lee was the team to storm out of the gate — the Cavaliers set the tone with the first point of the game, then increased their lead to 8-5 before Hayes burned her first timeout of the match in an attempt to re-focus her girls.
“We talk about little goals — don’t necessarily worry about getting to 25 first, worry about getting even first,” Hayes said. “Worry about the first to 20, the first 23. With that kind of attitude, I think that helps them when they’re behind.”
It would be awhile before Scotland was able tie the contest, however, as Southern Lee held a four-to-five point advantage as the game progressed. Trailing 20-16, the Scots finally put together their run.
Lewis notched a kill to tie the game at 20, but her next hit grazed the line just outside the field of play and put the Cavaliers back on top. But that was the last time the visitors from Sanford led.
Scotland gutted out key points in the waning moments of the match before Southern Lee’s Tara Way drilled a ball into the net to give the Scots the victory.
“Game three is not what we’re used to with the slow tempo, we don’t like that and to be able to come out of that and do well and still win is a feeling we need to remember,” Hayes said.
Emma Gray Beacham had six kills, 12 digs and three aces for the Scots while Mason Roberts added one ace and 15 digs. Amaya Pegues matched her sister with four kills.
Scotland improved to 9-6 overall and remained 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference while Southern Lee dropped to 2-12. The Scots will pick up conference play again Thursday when they host Purnell Swett.
“We know what it feels like when the team is playing well and up” Hayes said. “To have that feeling as a team and make that more and more familiar is important when we go into games.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.