LAURINBURG — Senior Night didn’t play out the way that Scotland volleyball coach Molly Hayes had envisioned, but as is often said in sports after an ugly victory, a win is still a win.
The Scots overcame a sluggish performance Tuesday night to win in three games against Lumberton in their final regular season home match. The 25-22, 25-23, 25-21 victory, paired with Richmond’s loss to Pinecrest, gave Scotland sole possession of second place in the Southeastern Conference ahead of Thursday’s season finale against the Raiders.
The victory improved Scotland to 12-7 overall and 7-2 in the SEC while the loss dropped Lumberton to 4-17 and 2-7 in the conference.
The night started with the honoring of the Scots’ two seniors — Kaitlin Lewis and Kenleigh Callahan.
“Both Kaitlin and Kenleigh are both very strong young women,” Hayes said. “Kenleigh is someone who is a good, natural athlete. Her touch on the ball is usually great, she’s a hard worker and plays anywhere you ask her to play.
“Kaitlin Lewis is a program girl — she’s been in the program since 8th grade. She’s come a long way from where she was her freshman year to now. The change in her ability on the court is very good.”
Once the pair took the floor with the rest of their teammates to take on the Pirates, Lumberton quickly showed the match was more than just window dressing to the Senior Night festivities.
Hayes said her team came out lethargic, which resulted in a close game until the Scots pulled away for a 16-9 lead midway through the set.
“I was hoping (Senior Night) would get them fired up but it kind of had the opposite effect for whatever reason,” Hayes said. “It was very quiet in the gym, we tried to get loud early on and just couldn’t. They played very slow and filled with mistakes.”
After Lumberton coach Jeffrey McLamb burned a timeout, the Pirates went on a 9-0 run behind the serving of Tori Sealy. Randi Bullard notched the go-ahead kill to make it 17-16, but Scotland’s Nahir Pegues ended the streak shortly after with one of her seven kills.
With the game tied at 21-21, Scotland scored four of the next five points to take the 1-0 lead. Lewis, who had 14 kills on the night, scored the game-winner.
In the second set, Lumberton jumped out to an early 7-3 advantage and held a 13-12 lead halfway through the game. Both teams traded points for much of the set — Scotland regained the lead at 20-18, then with the score 24-22, Pegues added another kill to give the Scots a commanding 2-0 advantage.
Hitting errors and defensive breakdowns plagued Scotland in the third game, resulting in a 18-8 deficit that clearly infuriated Hayes on the sideline. Lumberton led 8-7 before reeling off wins in 10 of the next 11 points.
But the Scots showed resiliency, cutting down on their mistakes while the Pirates began committing several of their own as Scotland rallied to tie the game at 19-all.
“I was pleased that we were able to come back,” Hayes said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do that and play that way the whole time.”
Scotland had little trouble putting the Pirates away, and Lewis capped Senior Night with a service point to give the Scots the win.
Lewis had 10 digs to go along with her double-digit kills, and Callahan led the Scots with 12 serving points, three aces and 20 assists. Emma Gray Beacham tacked on 13 digs.
Scotland concludes the regular season Thursday in Rockingham. The Scots can clinch sole possession of second in the SEC with a win over the Raiders, who are 6-3 in the conference. A loss would result in a tie for the runner-up spot behind Pinecrest — the Patriots earned the outright SEC championship with its 3-0 win against Richmond.
“They’re going to come fired up — Richmond always has a good crowd and it’s always a tough game in Richmond’s gym,” Hayes said. “If we play our game and play with some consistency, we should be fine. We’ll see which Scotland team shows up.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.