AIKEN — A sense of relief washed over Aiken coach Malynda Young after topping a rival Thursday night.
The Lady Hornets jumped to a big, opening-set lead and took care of business at home by beating South Aiken 3-0.
“I’m just relieved, because they’ve got a great team and I knew we were going to have to fight for this one,” Young said.
Aiken (24-6, 4-0 Region 4-AAAA) hopped into the driver’s seat toward another region title by shutting down South Aiken (13-5, 3-1). The Lady Hornets also avenged an upset loss at home to their rival last September.
They responded to that loss last season by splitting the season series and rolling to the 2016 Class AAAA state championship, while South Aiken reached the third round of the playoffs.
A 13-1 start in the first set got the ball rolling for Aiken by calming nerves that come from an intense atmosphere and loud gymnasium. South Aiken was unable to catch up and dropped the set 25-15.
“Once they got that big start, they settled down into their game and just played,” Young said. “They were talking really well on the court. That certainly did kind of set the stage to be a little more calm and play their game.”
Aiken again jumped to a big lead in the second set at 7-0, but South Aiken responded with a 6-0 run and fought point by point with Aiken through the 20th point. The Lady Hornets won six of the final eight points to claim the set 25-21 and go up 2-0.
An 11-4 start to the third set again put Aiken in control and, despite South Aiken climbing to within striking distance, the Lady Hornets put it away at 25-21 to win the match.
“I was counting on us having all our pistons connecting, everybody doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and we did well,” Young said.
Lily McCabe paced Aiken with 14 kills and five digs. Scotti Harrison added seven kills. Madie Jones led with 19 digs and Sara Gregory chipped in 14.
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.