Lady Scots continue rolling, take down Bucks
By Brandon Hodge Sports Writer,2023-09-21
LAURINBURG — From the first game to the 12th one, it’s hard to find a volleyball team that has improved more throughout the Sandhills Athletic Conference’s seven schools this season than Scotland’s.
The Lady Scots, who started the year 0-2 after being swept by West Brunswick and Lumberton, won their third game in a row and seventh in their last eight Thursday night when they swept the Hoke County Bucks 3-0 and kept their one-game lead on Union Pines to remain comfortably, for now, in second place in the SAC.
“We started off rough,” Scotland setter Madison Dixon said about the season. “We’re a bit of a younger team. The chemistry wasn’t there. There were only (four) of us that played together last year. We have a new person, Reagan Malpass, one of our new setters; she plays all the way around. I think we really just had to get that chemistry in practice — working together, running our rotations. I really think that was the key. And once we got that built up, here we are. And we’re doing great.”
Scotland (8-4, 5-1 SAC) is coming off a 3-1 win over Richmond on Tuesday, where head coach Adam Romaine was upset about his team’s performance as the game progressed on.
Romaine was much more pleased with their effort against Hoke (6-8, 2-5 SAC).
“We went back to practice yesterday and carried over from the things we did wrong in the Richmond win with our coverage,” Romaine said. “(We) ran about an hour’s worth of drills on coverage in our rotations. And that’s the difference we saw a lot tonight by these girls — being in the right place, reading the balls over the block, reading the balls on the outside of the block, knowing where they were supposed to be on the court. It’s the mistakes we made the other night (that) we corrected tonight, and that’s why we looked so good.”
The Lady Scots opened with a 7-2 lead in the first set before the Bucks tightened the score to 11-8. After making it 14-10, Scotland scored the next five points — capped off by a service ace from setter Reagan Malpass — to build a 19-10 lead. Back-to-back points by Hoke made it 19-12, but five more points put Scotland ahead 24-12. The Bucks looked to mount an improbable comeback with another pair of points scored but got shut down after a service error from Hoke outside hitter Kayeliana Bonner gave the Lady Scots the 25-14 set win.
“They (Hoke) picked up early that both hitters were cross-court,” Romaine said. “And so we maneuvered and cheated that way, and it worked to our advantage.”
Scotland and Hoke were tied early in the second set at 4-4 before the Lady Scots managed seven of the following nine points to take an 11-6 lead. The Bucks came back to within one at 13-12 but fell further behind after an attacking error by outside hitter Abigial Watts helped the Lady Scots go up 18-13. Scotland extended their lead to 21-14 after a kill from middle hitter Dawson Blue before Hoke made it 21-16. Four straight points that included two service aces by Dixon — one of which was the set point — ended the set in favor of Scotland at 25-16.
“I tried to hit that one spot, and it worked out perfect,” Dixon said about her set-ending ace. “As a lefty, I tend to serve straight down the line, right side of the court every time. And they picked that up off the bat and moved their defense over to the right, moving their libero and hiding their weakest passer back there. And I looked over at Romaine, and he gave me the little signal that I could do whatever.”
The Bucks started the third set with a 3-0 lead before six consecutive points that included two kills from middle hitter Ramsey Hale, one from middle hitter Lindsay Locklear, and another by outside hitter Addison Johnson put the Lady Scots in front 6-3. Hoke came to within two points at 14-12 after an attacking error by Johnson, but Scotland strung together five of the next six to lead 19-13. While the Bucks fought back to trail by only five at 23-18, Johnson finished the match with a service ace to give the Lady Scots the 25-18 set win.
“Hoke is always a scrappy team, and they scare me every time we play them; it doesn’t matter what our records are,” Romaine said. “It’s like an all or nothing philosophy with them, and that’s what I like about the way their coach (Lashonda Huey) gets her girls mentally prepared like that. They’re not tipping a lot of balls. They’re not doing the little easy rolls for spots, which, strategically, you’ve got to mix it up. It helps you out better. They’re good about putting a lot of balls down. And that’s what we were practicing for yesterday.”
Johnson had 12 kills and four digs for Scotland. Hale had six kills and five assisted blocks; Locklear had six aces, four kills, and four digs; Malpass had 17 assists, eight aces, and two kills; Dixon had six assists and four aces; Emerie Snuggs had five assisted blocks; Blue had four assisted blocks and two kills; and Nateya Scott had four digs and two aces.
The win means that next Thursday’s game at Union Pines could have implications for second place in the SAC, as Scotland only has one more conference game until then and won 3-0 over the Vikings on Sep. 5.
The Lady Scots have bigger aspirations than that, however as they want to chase down Pinecrest — who is 6-0 in the SAC — for the conference’s top seed.
“I have full faith that we can,” Dixon said about whether Scotland can become the SAC’s No. 1 seed. “We are stronger now than we have been in a couple of years, in my opinion. And our chemistry is there, and we’ve been on a roll. Romaine has been really hard on us in practice. And I really just think that if we put the work in that it’s ours.”
In order to do that, Romaine said his team can’t “let off the gas.”
“I gave a different analogy in practice yesterday, but it’s basically, you hold that foot down on the bus that I have to drive,” Romaine said. “If I let off that gas, I’m going to go from 55 (miles per hour) to 40, and it takes a little while to get back to 55. Well, if we let off the gas as a team and they (let our opponent) come back, now it’s hard for us to try to get that momentum back. We’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Scotland plays at West Brunswick in nonconference action on Monday.
Reach Brandon Hodge at 910-506-3171 or by email at [email protected]. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @BrandonHSports.