CHAPEL HILL — At times on Thursday, Northwood was right there: skying up for kills, holding long rallies and playing generally clean and crisp volleyball against another excellent conference …
Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Making high quality community journalism isn’t free — please consider supporting our journalism by subscribing to the News + Record today.
Unlimited Digital Access: $3.99/month
Print + Digital: $5.99/month
CHAPEL HILL — At times on Thursday, Northwood was right there: skying up for kills, holding long rallies and playing generally clean and crisp volleyball against another excellent conference opponent.
But those ephemeral stretches simply weren’t enough against a far more consistent East Chapel Hill squad, who kept the visiting Chargers at arm’s length all night long in a 3-0 sweep.
“I don't think we had a strong point at all …” Northwood head coach Krista McGivern said afterward. “Our hitting was off. Our passing was off. Our blocking was off. It was just hard to pull it together.”
Senior Kennedy Cox and junior Hannah Forbes, the Chargers’ two team captains, concurred. Northwood didn’t get completely blown out — the team lost 25-19, 25-14 and 25-15 — but something still felt off.
“We were definitely putting all of our effort out there,” Forbes said. “Some days, it just falls short … I don’t think we’ll let it get to us.”
Take the first set, for example, which in hindsight may have been Northwood’s best and only chance to take control of the match. The Chargers got down early but hung within a few points; as the set progressed, they trailed 12-9, 14-11, 17-15 and 19-16, always within striking distance.
Two quick points later, though — and the Wildcats got a lot of those quick points, as four players had five or more kills and the team had 28 in total — it was 21-16 East Chapel Hill.
Their momentum fizzled, the Chargers couldn’t make up the deficit and dropped the set 25-19. That slump continued into the second; before Northwood could blink, East Chapel Hill was up 6-1. Then 11-4. Then 17-5. Then 22-9. Northwood was in a rut, trading one good possession for three or four poor ones.
“I feel like the communication was off,” Cox said. “We were struggling as a team. It wasn’t anything individual.”
The third set was more of the same — the Chargers hanging within four points or so, and the Wildcats (led by senior Noor Fares, a consistently dominant presence at the net) making a few timely pushes to fend them off. East Chapel Hill won in undramatic fashion, 25-15, to end the match and move to 4-1.
Northwood, meanwhile, dropped to 2-3. In a normal season, that record wouldn’t be one of immediate concern — the Chargers could still tune up before Big 8 conference play got into full swing.
In a pandemic-shortened and conference-only 2020 season, though, Northwood has to rebound rapidly if they want to contend in one of the 3A classification’s best volleyball conferences, which boasts reigning state champion Chapel Hill plus an undefeated Cedar Ridge squad, East Chapel Hill and Orange.
McGivern said Northwood can “definitely compete” with those top teams, and past results have shown as much. Cedar Ridge swept Northwood on Nov. 17 but won two of its sets by a combined five points. The Chargers hung around with Chapel Hill in a sweep, too, losing two sets by a combined 10. There’s something to glean from those performances plus the East Chapel Hill defeat, Forbes and Cox said.
“A loss is a loss, but it means more than that,” Cox said. “It’s a lesson, ultimately.”
And Northwood will try its best to learn a lesson from Thursday. McGivern said the Chargers will review film, identify fixes and “put it into action at practice” as they gear up for a big week of home matches in Pittsboro: Vance County on Tuesday, Cedar Ridge on Thursday and Orange on Friday.
“We’re right there,” McGivern said. “We’ve just got to pull it together, start playing together more as a team and minimize our mistakes.”