LUMBERTON — It’ll likely be the biggest battle of the state 1A NCHSAA volleyball playoffs Thursday night when Lakewood’s Lady Leopards tangle once again with Tri-County conference champ Pender in the third round of the tournament, the fourth meeting of the two powerhouse teams this season.
Lakewood advanced Tuesday after defeating South Robeson on the road in four sets — 7-25; 25-19; 12-25; 18-25. Pender moved on after taking down Dixon.
For Lakewood, coach Sheila Davidson said, a win Thursday night will start and end with better execution and stronger serve-receive play.
“That’s exactly what we’ll be working on in practice tomorrow (Wednesday),” Davidson said right after Tuesday’s win, and before she even knew Pender would once again be their opponent.
“To win the next round, we’ve got to eliminate the aces we are allowing from our opponents. That’s a must.”
The Lady Leopards entered the second round a little anxious, facing an opponent, Davidson said, they had never played and knew little about.
But it wasn’t long before the Lakewood girls found their footing.
“They played hard, although they were a little anxious to begin with,” Davidson stressed. “Once they figured out what kind of team they were, they got into the game and they played like they wanted it.”
Davidson said she was proud of the effort by the Lady Leopards, but she emphasized that playing hard and playing good were two entirely different things.
“I’m pleased that they played hard but I can’t emphasize enough that they’ve also got to execute better. We’ll be working on that during practice.”
In Tuesday’s game, Allyson Heinz had 28 assists; Morgan Herring, 13 kills; Bailey Dudley, 6 kills; Anna Heinz, 13 service points; Tiesha Rich, 10 kills; Rasheeda Parker, 8 kills, 7 blocks; and Emily Green, 8 service points and 2 assists.
The meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at No. 1 ranked Pender, will be the fourth time the two teams have competed against one another since the season opened. Pender won two of the earlier matches — one in regular season and the other for the Tri-County championship — and Lakewood won the second regular season matchup.
Last year, when Pender and Lakewood met in the state tournament, it was the Leopards who advanced.