Two local teams stamped their respective tickets to this week's sectional semifinals following second-round wins on Tuesday.
SPIVEY'S CORNER — Whether it was the "hype-up" music or pregame devotion, junior outside hitter Blair Baggett and her Midway volleyball teammates created a windstorm of energy too powerful to contain as they blew past visiting Whiteville, 3-0, Tuesday in a state playoff contest.
Set scores were 25-22, 25-16 and 25-21.
The team's 13th straight victory sets up Thursday's 2A East third-round matchup with No. 13 seed Farmville Central and gives Baggett and fifth-seeded Midway (17-4) an opportunity to accomplish something her older sister, Logan, couldn't in 2017.
That was the last season in which the Lady Raiders advanced to the sectional semifinal before losing a five-set thriller.
"I really want to go more rounds than her team did," Baggett said after leading the Lady Raiders with 12 kills and seven aces Tuesday.
"I think it would be really cool if our class would be the next to go further (in the tournament)."
Midway coach Susan Clark was an assistant on the 2017 team and feels like the current group has what it takes to continue its 13-game win streak– given the right mental state.
"I feel confident in the girls. When they come and they bring their game mentally – physically, they're awesome," Clark said.
With Baggett taking charge early, the Lady Raiders built a 19-12 first-set advantage off back-to-back kills from the hard-swinging righty.
"When she gets so into it and intense and excited, she can literally slam (the ball) down the other side– straight down," Clark said of Baggett.
"She's been playing strong all year, just not getting them (shots) inside that little white square as much as she wanted to. She's learned to dial it in and I think it's adrenaline ... the rush, the excitement."
Despite a gritty Whiteville comeback to tie the score at 20, the Lady Raiders benefited from a rowdy student section and claimed the first set before gliding through the second stanza.
"I feel the crowd really helps me get amped up ... and whenever I start getting that emotion, I feel like I do so much better," Baggett said.
She had 10 of her kills in the first two sets, then saw her teammates get going in the final frame.
Senior outside hitter Rylie Williams punched in four of her 10 kills in the third, including a spike early on that gave the group an 8-5 advantage. Sophomore middle hitter Morgan Hall overcame a slow start individually, claiming five of her eight kills in the third.
Jaycie Byrd had a double-double, 39 assists (16 in third) and 14 digs, while Baggett did her damage from the service line– claiming three aces to her name in the frame.
Whiteville cut the lead to just two points later in the set before the Lady Raiders pushed to a 25-21 win.
Baggett and company realize that picking up where her sister's squad left off won't be easy, having to navigate past a Farmville Central group who bounced Midway from last year's postseason.
"We are super-excited ... Were gonna have to really dig deep at practice and hopefully do good things," Baggett said.
Thursday's matchup from Spivey's Corner is set for 6 p.m.
McKenzie Williams ended with a team-leading 21 digs and Rylie Willimas added 11 in the win.
Harnett Central earned a 3-1 victory for the second time this postseason, defeating eighth-seeded Currituck County on the road Tuesday.
Set scores were 25-8, 17-25, 25-18 and 25-14.
Central (19-7) advances to the third round for the first time since 2016 Thursday and travels to top seed Cedar Ridge (27-2), who beat South Johnston in straight sets Tuesday.
Ivanna Jones and Lily Gervase tied a team high with nine kills apiece.
Sinai Avalos Beltran added six kills and 12 digs, while Carlie Love and Carlee Harrell combined for 25 assists.
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2040.