Back to Normal: Orange volleyball beats Northwood

Updated: September 18, 2019

Article by Tim Hackett

For Orange High School volleyball, last Thursday was pretty unusual. The Panthers are pretty used to playing Cedar Ridge, their cross-town rivals, but they’re also used to beating them: the Red Wolves’ victory at Orange on Thursday was their first in the series in five tries. That’s pretty unusual. The five-setter was the first time Orange had to go the distance in a match since last August. That’s pretty unusual. Cedar Ridge hit .175 as a team in the match and still won. That’s pretty unusual. And that Cedar Ridge victory came just days after their historic win over Chapel Hill, a team that hadn’t lost a match to another team from North Carolina all year. It doesn’t get a whole lot more unusual than that. 

But on Tuesday night in Hillsborough, everything was pretty much back to normal. Back at home in their first game since Thursday’s thriller, the Panthers (7-4, 2-1 Big 8) eked out a close first set before dispatching the Northwood Chargers (6-7, 1-3) in straight sets, 26-24, 25-15, 25-21. It’s the third straight win in this in-conference series for Orange after the Panthers won both matchups in four sets a year ago. 

The two teams went toe-to-toe to start the tilt. The Chargers served well to start and got out to a 13-10 lead, and Orange had little luck getting the left-side attack in gear. The solution? Switch the offense to the right side. It’s an uncommon strategy at any level of volleyball, but Orange’s Lottie Scully was the girl for the job. Facing that three-point deficit, Kaitlyn Werden back set for a right-side kill, sparking an 8-3 that vaulted Orange into the lead. But the Chargers wouldn’t die: the teams battled to ties at 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 before, fittingly, a Scully ace gave Orange set point and a Scully set for a Werden kill on, you guessed it, the right side, gave Orange the set at 26-24. 

“We’ll feed the right side especially if they don’t have the defenders to block it,” Orange head coach Kelly Young said. “A lot of teams aren’t used to a strong right side attack from a defensive standpoint, so we’ll definitely go to it when we can.” 

The success on the opposite end finally opened up the traditional attacking avenues as the match progressed – Avery Miller and Emma Clements got their looks from the left side, and Erin Jordan-Cornell added a few kills out of the middle. Orange’s offensive diversity was on display in the second set as the Panthers scored the first five points and never looked back. Miller was clinical from both sides all set before Ella Van Tiem appropriately finished it off at 25-14 with another kill from the right side. 

But the Chargers still had some juice left in them. The visitors won five of the first six points and, after Scully responded with back-to-back kills from each pin, Northwood generated a run to establish a 16-13 lead. Young called a timeout, and the Panthers responded by rattling off the next six points to take a 19-16 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Clements cleaned up the rebound on one of Northwood’s few blocks of Scully for match point, and then the Chargers bump-set a free ball wide to hand Orange the set 25-21 and the match three sets to none. 

Northwood’s serving, especially from Kaela Harris, kept the Chargers in the match early. Young conceded that her players might have been a little unsettled in their first match since Thursday’s events, but said that once they cleaned up their serving and passing in the second set things went a lot smoother. As for Scully, the sophomore setter/right side had a splendid showing in all phases – serving, setting and swinging. Afterward, Young said Scully has been playing through injuries all year and we might just be seeing the beginning of how good Scully could be. 

“She’s not even at her full potential,” Young said. “I’m just waiting for her to be as good as she can be.”

But things won’t get any easier for Scully and the Panthers, as Chapel Hill, the three-time defending conference champs, loom on Thursday. After Orange was able to get back to business as usual on Tuesday, if the Panthers were able to tame the Tigers on Thursday, that would be unusual indeed. 

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