Lady Raiders end drought, advance to 4th round

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 10/29/21

Midway ended its yearslong drought with a third-round win, while Harnett Central saw its season come to a close, during Thursday's volleyball postseason action.

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Lady Raiders end drought, advance to 4th round

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MIDWAY — The past two decades have been bittersweet for Midway volleyball fans.

Perfect runs through conference play. One- and two-loss seasons. Impressive state playoff appearance streaks. 

But those teams' journeys often concluded in the third round, something the current Lady Raiders were faced with at home Thursday as alums from those standout teams took in the matchup with 13th-seeded Farmville Central. 

The two programs met in the same scenario, five years prior, with Farmville Central claiming victory.

But as Thursday's last point was placed on the scoreboard, it was finally time for Midway to celebrate a third-round win as players and coaches rushed the home floor following its 3-0 shutout.

"That we actually beat them shows how hard we have worked and how hard we wanted this for our team and those who have lost to them in the past. It felt really good," said Lady Raiders middle hitter Morgan Hall, who ended with eight kills and lead the team with four blocks.

Set scores were 25-16, 25-16 and 25-19.

Fifth-seeded Midway advances to the fourth round for the first time since 2002, and plays at 2A East top seed Camden County Saturday evening.    

Rylie Williams, who finished a team-high 10 kills, was equally appreciative of the ex-Lady Radier greats in attendance. 

"They know we can do it. It's really cool to see everyone's face supporting us and it just motivates us to play even better," Williams said. 

"I think we did great. We played together well and we came out and executed."

The senior captain also spoke to how important it was to energize Hall and her younger teammates throughout the contest. 

A Williams kill in the first set gave the Lady Raiders a 6-1 advantage, sending the crowd into a frenzy as Farmville Central called its first timeout. 

"That's what we tried to do from the beginning ...try to get the first five points," she said. "And don't hold back at all, just keep going." 

Hall matched the upperclassman's energy, pushing the margin to 10 points on multiple occasions. Her kill made it 21-11, then a block moments later gave Midway a 23-13 lead. When Farmville Central made a run to close the gap to 23-16, Hall answered with a point that eventually led to opening-set win. 

The second set saw Williams again get her group an early 9-4 lead with a spike. As the visitors drew as close as two points, 13-11, it was Williams who immediately responded with a kill to quell the run. 

"It's really important to put your foot down and not let them creep in at all and just set the tone," she said. 

The Lady Raiders got the points lead as high as 21-13 and Williams finished off the second with a kill that made it 25-16. 

Midway coach Susan Clark praised defense on the backline of her 5-1 formation for immobilizing the Lady Jags offense. 

Morgan Williams finished with a team-high 10 digs and Rylie Williams added six of her own.

Clark was especially impressed with her group's perseverance through a host of long rallies, including a couple in the final set to finish off the much-awaited win.

"It's exciting. I'm a little overwhelmed right now," Clark said.

"I'm very proud of the girls. I have been at peace with this whole journey."

Rylie Williams is not ready for the journey to end just yet and weighed in on what it will take to get the program back to a state championship game like it did in 2002.

"Every team we play is gonna get better and better, but just play with your heart and it'll lead you to where you're supposed to go," she said.

Jacie Byrd had a team-leading 25 assists for Midway.

Saturday's fourth-round contest from Camden is set for 5 p.m.

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910 230-2040. 

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