AIKEN — Aiken faced a quick deficit before some fans found their seats Thursday night.
By the end of the second set, the train was back on track.
The Lady Hornets stormed back from the shock of a first-set loss to beat Richland Northeast 3-1 in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Aiken (33-9-1) rebounded from a 3-1 loss to rival South Aiken to end the regular season Monday and started its state title defense on a positive note. Missing two starting setters early in the match, the Lady Hornets took control through the second and third sets and will play host to a second-round opponent Tuesday.
“I thought they did a fantastic job,” Aiken coach Malynda Young said. “Confidence grew throughout that second set and (Zymbraya Corley) started hitting really well. They were playing like they knew how to play, like I visualize them playing, because I know that’s how well they can do.”
South Aiken had similar success to open the Class AAAA playoffs by beating South Pointe in straight sets. The Lady Thoroughbreds topped the Lady Stallions 25-14, 25-15, 25-17 to advance.
A scrappy Richland Northeast team (8-11) started strong and loud by battling Aiken to a tie at 10 and leading 16-15. After a short run gave the Lady Cavaliers a four-point lead, they took over to win 25-19 and hand Aiken a rare set loss for an early playoff match.
“We’ve still got a lot of ballgame to play,” Young said she told her team. “The first game was, make sure you are the team that you are. Be there for each other and do what you’re supposed to do.”
Aiken bounced back with authority by running to a 7-0 advantage in the second set and extending it to 10-2. A Richland Northeast timeout didn’t halt the momentum and the Lady Hornets cruised to a 25-12 victory.
After jumping to leads of 13-4 and 16-5 in the third set, Aiken again cruised for a dominating 25-9 win for a 2-1 match lead.
The Lady Hornets hit a slight rut in the fourth as Richland Northeast found its first lead since the first set, but Aiken found a small run for a 17-10 advantage that sparked a 25-14 win to clinch the match.
Corley led Aiken with 13 kills while Nescotia Harrison added 11. Madie Jones played stellar defense to log 28 digs against a tough Richland Northeast team that included star Logan McMullin.
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.