Cavaliers back atop SWD

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Carroll County edged Marion in five sets in a playoff for the Southwest season championship.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

WYTHEVILLE –– It has long been the hope of Cindy Edwards to see Southwest District volleyball reach the competitive level of the River Ridge District. It’s an aspiration strong enough to warrant cooperation between SWD coaches to strive toward that end.

Whether the River Ridge is ever caught up to remains to be seen, but it sure has made the SWD a lot more interesting.

Edwards and Carroll County nipped Marion in five sets Monday, taking the Southwest District season championship in a playoff at George Wythe High School. The Cavaliers battled to a 23-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-22 15-11 victory and reclaimed the season title after finishing third in the league a year ago.

“We are two very even teams,” said Edwards. “It can go either way when we play each other. [Marion coach] Amanda [Hanshew] has really put a lot of work into that program. We’ve done a lot of stuff to help each other. For us to get better our district has to get better, and our coaches have tried to do that.”

Carroll County upped its record to 17-4 and will open district tournament play against either Tazewell or Richlands, and Marion will face Abingdon. Marion dropped to 18-2, with both losses coming to Carroll County. The Cavaliers’ only setback since August – a stretch of 18 matches – was a three-set loss at Marion two weeks ago.

Each team rallied from being down a set, the Cavaliers taking the second and third sets after dropping the opener, the Scarlet Hurricane climbing into a 2-2 tie by winning the fourth.

Marion won the first four points of the final set on two Carroll hitting errors and two misplayed serves. A timeout was followed by four straight Carroll points, and the Cavs didn’t trail after taking a 10-7 lead with a 5-0 spurt that included two Eustacia Smith kills.

“I asked them if they were going to sulk and pout, or were they going to step up,” Edwards said. “They stepped up and showed some leadership. That’s what I’m proud of, for us to be so young.”

Marion was within a point twice down the stretch but a serve into the net put the Cavs up 13-11, and Jessica Sheek ended the night by powering two kills through Hurricane blockers.

Sheek, Smith and Autumn Hill all hit double figures in kills, led by Smith’s 20. Sheek added 11 and Hill put away 10 to go with four blocks. Megan Alderman and Cheyenne Strickland combined for 40 assists.

“It was all the way across,” Edwards said. “Samantha [Hill], Morgan [Tompkins], Rachel [Farmer] – I thought Rachel played really well in the middle – Autumn had some big blocks, we just played well all the way across the net.”

The Cavaliers were two points away from securing a one-set lead when Marion stole the opener by taking the final five points, four coming on winners by Callie Mellinger, but Carroll County rebounded with wins in the second and third sets. The Cavaliers lost eight straight points early in the second to trail 10-5, only to bounce back with their own 8-0 run, riding that momentum to a 20-13 lead. Marion closed with a flurry and pulled to within 24-23 but let the set slip away with a serve into the net.

“We got to 23 in the first set and didn’t put it away,” Edwards said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort. Marion just executed and we didn’t. We took advantage of the free ball a lot better in the second set.”

Carroll broke away from a 6-5 lead in the third by winning nine straight points and took the momentum of a nine-point win into the fourth set, but Marion regrouped in a see-saw fourth that featured a nerve-wracking 18 ties and eight lead changes.