NEWTON — The Fred T. Foard volleyball team has become quite accustomed to winning matches in straight sets, and that’s exactly what the Tigers did again on Wednesday night at Jerry Copas Gym. Following a 25-17 victory in the opening set, Foard defeated Patton 25-11 in the second set and 25-16 in the third set to emerge victorious in both teams’ Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference opener.


With the win, the Tigers moved to 7-0 overall and 1-0 in league play. They have won 21 straight regular-season contests dating back to last year and haven’t dropped a regular-season home match since a three-set loss to West Iredell on Oct. 11, 2017.


On the other side, the Panthers fell to 5-2 overall and 0-1 in league action. They have lost 36 consecutive sets to Foard, with their last set win over the Tigers coming in the opening set of a four-set defeat on Sept. 8, 2014.


“The girls were excited about it being the first conference match,” Foard coach Meredith Lombardi said. “We’ve been working throughout the season to get ready for conference and I thought Patton did a great job coming in here, we have a home court advantage with the low ceiling. They’re not a bad team and I told the team we can’t take them lightly, they’ve got some good hitters and a great defense.”


The first set remained close until Foard put together a small run to build a 17-10 lead. Patton was able to get back within three points at 20-17, but the Tigers closed the first set with five straight points including a late block from Michelle Thao to gain a 1-0 advantage in the match.


Foard carried that momentum into the second set, tallying 14 of the first 15 points to take control. Megan Dorsey started the set with a block that was followed by a Sarah Lingle kill. Dorsey added a kill of her own to make it 3-0 and later recorded two aces to go with a kill from Thao and a block from Sierra Ward as the Tigers threatened to run away with the set at 14-1.


Patton cut into the deficit a bit thanks to the play of Ella Gragg, who had several points down the stretch. However, the Tigers used a team effort that included a Martina Foster block, another Dorsey kill and a tip from Thao to pull away late for a 14-point set win.


The squads went back and forth at the outset of the third set, which began with a kill from Foard’s Jamianne Foster. Gragg continued to lead the Patton charge, while several players notched points for the Tigers.


In the end, it was another 5-0 spurt that ultimately allowed Foard to put the Panthers away. Martina Foster registered a match-ending ace to give the hosts their 13th league win in a row, a streak that began with a victory over Patton last August.


“I thought my girls were ready,” said Lombardi. “I wouldn’t say that we were where we’re supposed to be, I think we can play a little better than what we showed, but our hitters did what they were supposed to and our defense definitely stepped up there at the end to kind of push us back ahead.”


Thao finished with 12 kills to lead Foard, while Dorsey added seven kills, five aces and two blocks. Dara Shaffer chipped in 14 digs, Haley Johnston had 14 assists and three aces and Lingle tallied 12 assists for the Tigers, who travel to Bunker Hill on Thursday before hosting Hibriten on Monday.

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Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record. 

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