NEWTON — Fred T. Foard fans better jump on the volleyball team’s bandwagon soon before it gets filled up. The Tigers moved to 5-0 on the season with a three-set sweep Tuesday night over St. Stephens by set scores of 25-19, 25-9 and 25-17. The Lady Tigers have only lost one set in five games.
“We did start off a little slow. I don’t know if it was the second day of school or the game yesterday at North Iredell,” Foard coach Meredith Lombardi said. “It helps coming into the season being successful like this. But I always tell them enjoy this, this win we just had. But tomorrow is a new day and it doesn’t make any difference who we beat because the world is moving forward now. We’re 5-0, but that puts a target on our backs also.”
Foard jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opener and it looked like the Tigers might just run away and hide from St. Stephens. But the Indians fought back and led by as many as two points, 9-7, on Neila King’s serve, and again, 11-9, with Kenley Killian putting the ball in play.
Foard’s Michelle Thao had a four-point service turn that included an ace that put her team back out in front. However, the Indians weren’t going away without a fight and put together another run when 6-foot-1 Rylee Upton sandwiched two blocks around a Carter Leatherman ace to take the lead back.
But with Haley Johnston serving for the second time, Foard took the lead for good. Dara Shaffer’s ace put the score at set point and Martina Foster finished off set one with a monster slam on a quick set by Johnston.
The Indians were stung by five service errors in the first set and eight on the night.
“Most of the time we are a better serving team than that,” said St. Stephens coach Julie Harris. “We were off today; we were sluggish today and I hope it’s gone tomorrow before we play Crest.”
The second set was dominated by Foard and by Foster, the Tigers’ middle hitter who blistered the Indians with five kills and four blocks for points.
“She’s a very dominant player up there and she’s only a sophomore. When she gets a hit, everyone knows it. She’s got a heavy ball coming at you,” Lombardi said, and noted the emotion produced by Foster’s thunderous shots. “That’s something we feed off of as a team.”
The other factor in the Foard attack in the second game was the passing and setting, particularly that of Johnston.
“Our offense is always going to run around the setter. I tell them they’re the quarterbacks of the team. They’ve got to run it. Everyone looks at you and you get to touch the ball every single time,” Lombardi said. “I thought our setters did do a good job of stepping up, giving our hitters a good ball. It really helped our offense. It really helps when our setters are consistent.”
Lombardi used some different combinations in the third set that went back and forth right from the opening serve. There were 11 ties and seven lead changes. Foard finally took the lead for good on Shaffer’s serve.
Foster got the hot hand at the net with three blocks and a kill on four straight points and got plenty of help on the front line down the stretch from Megan Dorsey, Jamianne Foster and Sierra Ward. It was Ward’s kill that ended the match.
“We had some fundamental errors we have to work on in practice,” said Harris, whose Indians are now 1-3 on the season. “Sometimes we tend to go through the motions. We don’t execute. We have to turn it around. We have to do it the entire match, not just bursts of this and bursts of that.”
St. Stephens plays Wednesday at home versus Crest, while Foard will play Thursday at Statesville.