Teams in this post:

Spartans rally past Hornets

Central Davidson’s Kassie Miller hits a kill for a point against Salisbury’s Brielle Blaire (center) and Maddie Gentry during their volleyball match Tuesday night at Central.

Alex Halbach unleashed a powerful serve, only to have Salisbury hustle in for a dig and send it back over the net. Then Kamber Skeen set Melissa McMath, who ripped a mighty spike. The Hornets almost returned that hit, but couldn’t get it back over with three hits.

For Salisbury, the spirit was willing, but the flesh wasn’t quite able. Central was simply too good at the net and in the service game, rallying for a 22-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-15 Central Carolina Conference win over the Hornets at Central on Tuesday. The upstart Hornets put a scare in the Spartans, who are still in the running for the CCC title, winning the first game with hustle play after hustle play. It left the Spartans, who typically wipe out the Hornets with ease, searching for answers.

“I threw them off, because I messed with the lineup to start with,” said Central coach Melissa Skeen. “But then I think they recovered well.”

The Hornets scored the first six points of the first game on Mary Seifert’s serve, taking advantage of Bria Gardner’s kill and a Seifert ace. Cortney Gillispie sandwiched a kill between two Spartan miscues moments later, Salisbury’s lead ballooned to 16-6.

Central fought all the way back to get within 19-17, using a 9-2 burst to get close. Kamber Skeen found a hole in the Salisbury defense twice, and Halbach finished a kill to draw the Spartans close. Central got within a point at 23-22 on the visitors’ double hit, but then sent a serve long and Brielle Blaire closed the first game with a kill.

Early on, the Hornets were executing coach Mallory Hodge’s game plan to perfection. “We tried to push it to the middle,” Hodge said. “And we had good passes so we could push it to the middle.”

Despite dropping the first game, the Spartans carried the momentum they built at the end into the second game. Tied at 15-15, the Spartans reeled off five straight points on McMath’s serve — including a pair of aces. She added a back-row kill, then Skeen’s backward set fell over the net into a hole in the Hornets’ defense, evening the match at 1-1.

It was all Central from there. The Spartans raced to an 11-2 lead early in the third game, and Salisbury was clearly shaken. “We’re still struggling with overcoming that, when we get behind how we need to come back and pull through,” Hodge explained.

The Spartans were on the other end of the emotional spectrum, feeding off the positive energy. “Anytime we can get some momentum going our way, it always works good,” Skeen said.

McMath’s block stretched Central’s lead to 18-5 in the third game, and Taylor Shoaf’s running tip sealed it. Salisbury showed some fight in the fourth game, but the Spartans erupted on a 7-1 run that effectively put the game away. McMath added two vicious kills in the run, including one that prompted a Salisbury fan on the front row to say, “I clocked that one at about 70 (mph).” Halbach, who had a tremendous game at the net and with her serve, tacked on a kill, and Rachel Lewis came through with a block that danced along the top of the net and fell in for match point.

Central moved to 5-1 in the CCC, 10-5 overall, while the Hornets dipped to 3-4, 6-5. Central visits East Davidson on Thursday.

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or