Tied at 14-14 in the fifth set, the Sandhills Community College volleyball team had come a long way back from trailing Lenoir CC 2-0 in sets in Kinston Wednesday evening.
The tie-breaker set went to match-point on a strong win at the net by the Lady Flyers' Morrigan Denman. Then a service ace by Willow Williams completed the 21-25, 25-27, 25-20, 25-16 and 16-14 victory.
"We rushed the court," Coach Alicia Riggan said early Thursday morning of the celebration that ensued. "Sometimes this season we've gotten close and didn't finish so it was exciting to see them persevere after being down by two. The girls really battled and several established career highs."
Coupled with Tuesday's 25-10, 25-12 and 25-7 sweep at Guilford Tech, the Flyers improved to 11-9 with their fourth victory in a row. They take a Region X record of 2-0 into Saturday's 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. conference doubleheader at the Hangar against Rockingham CC (0-9, 0-4).
It was learned earlier Wednesday that the Flyers' Carley Modlin was named the September 23-29 NJCAA Division III National Offensive Player of the Week. The Pinecrest grad is the first Lady Flyer to receive that honor in the 12-year history of the volleyball program.
The freshman middle hitter was credited with a college-career high 22 kills to go with six digs and four solo blocks against the Lancers. On a big night overall for the Lady Flyer hitters, Christen Clontz had 19 kills and 21 digs, both career highs, and Denman's 14 kills matched her season-best to go with 20 digs.
Falling one kill short of the rare volleyball 20-20 double-double, Clontz, a product of Gray Stone Day School, finished the match with zero hitting errors.
In early September at the Hangar, the Flyers swept the Lancers in three closely contested sets.
"To be honest, when we got there they looked like a different team from the first time we played them so I was anticipating a hard game," Clontz said before Thursday's 7 a.m. practice. "I thought the best thing I can do is swing away and be confident in myself. And it seemed to work."
Against Lenoir, now 4-8, Modlin, Clontz and Denman accounted for 55 of the team's 67 kills. Camryn Lowe (37) and Adison Campbell (13) combined for a total of 50 assists. Lowe also had 16 digs with Williams, the libero, leading the team in that category with 24.
On Tuesday at Guilford Tech in Jamestown, Modlin was the leader in kills with nine. Campbell logged 11 assists and six service aces, and Lowe had 10 assists and four aces.
Earlier on Wednesday, after leaving a class, Modlin learned about the national honor via Twitter. Her grandparents and a number of other relatives that live in the Kinston area watched her play.
"It's a pretty good feeling," she said of the national recognition. "They (relatives) don't really get to come a lot so it was definitely something that pushed me to do a little better.
"I know we took them in three sets the first time so playing them in five was more intense. They were up on us by two, but I knew the whole time we were going to win. We fought hard."
Before the game, Riggan wondered how Modlin would respond to the honor.
"She came out and just owned it," the coach said. "She played like a player of the week."
The Flyers returned home from Kinston at about 11 p.m. On Thursday they were back on the court at the Hangar for their early morning practice. In spite of the back-to-back road games, Modlin wasn't expecting any reprieves from the routine.
"I could see it coming," she said. "We have conference on Saturday and she (Riggan) wants us to touch as many balls as we can."
Saturday is Senior Day. High school seniors from the area interested in the college and the volleyball program have been invited to participate in a number of activities that include a meet and greet at 10 a.m., a campus tour and the volleyball games.
Lady Flyer Extra - Region X Standings – Sandhills 2-0, Patrick Henry 3-1, Southwest Virginia 2-1, Central Carolina 2-3, Rockingham 0-4. The Flyers have beaten both Guilford Tech and Lenoir twice this season and are 9-2 overall against NJCAA Division II teams. Two of the teams that defeated the Flyers on their Labor Day Weekend trip to Ohio, Owens CC (23-3) and Columbus State (17-3), are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in this week's NJCAA Division III national poll.