KERNERSVILLE — Bishop McGuinness didn’t worry, even if things weren’t going its way. Instead, it stuck to the game plan, and the results followed.
The third-seeded Villains bounced back strong after losing the first and fourth sets to beat seventh-seeded Murphy 21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 26-28, 15-11 on Saturday in Bishop’s Krispy Kreme Center in the 1A West regional semifinals.
“I told the girls all night: You have to stay aggressive,” Bishop coach Shawn Jacobsen said. “If you just throw the ball over the net, then they’ll pound it down our throat. It’s like playing ping-pong with a guy who’s serving that easy serve and you just smash it.
“Literally the whole match I just said: Keep doing your thing. They’re not pressuring you. Just stay aggressive and you will win. They just had so much confidence. And if we get a big dig off one of their big hits, then it’s just going to help our momentum.”
Jordyn Johnson had 22 kills, 22 digs and four aces to lead the Villains (15-1), who will make their first regional championship appearance since 2006. Chrisbel Alcantara added 14 kills and two aces, while Jeanna Hauk had 24 digs, four aces and a personal-best 45 assists.
Reagan Deaton added five kills, eight digs and two assists, and Grace Strader contributed 20 digs, two assists and two aces as Bishop — which was in the regional semifinals for the first time since 2012 — was never in real danger of bowing out. Even down a set early, it quickly led big in the next set.
“We really just put everything out there,” said Johnson, a senior outside hitter and Queens University of Charlotte recruit. “We didn’t want to get angry or anything. We were really just having fun. In the huddles, we were dancing and singing. The whole point is just to have a good time. The happier you are the better you play.”
The teams were pretty evenly matched — neither team led by double digits the entire match. What gave his team the advantage, Jacobsen said, was that the Bulldogs (15-1) — who had only lost one set all season — were largely conservative with their serves.
So that allowed the Villains, who’ve struggled at times with serve-receive, to get the ball to their big hitters without much trouble, which in turn allowed them to serve aggressively themselves. And that small difference was enough to build and maintain an advantage for considerable stretches in a tight match.
“I told the girls at the beginning of the game: They’ve got four really good hitters,” Jacobsen said. “And we have just as much firepower as they do. So, if they’re just going to give us the first chance every time to really hit on the ball … They kind of threw us off a couple times and our passing wasn’t great.
“But, for the most part, we did what we needed to do. We were all pretty confident. When we struggle, it’s in serve-receive. And if they’re not going to pressure serve-receive, then the girls felt pretty confident. It’s just the reality of it. They could’ve put some pressure on us, and they just didn’t.”
With the first set tied 20-20, Murphy scored five of the last six points to jump ahead. But Bishop quickly led the second 10-2 and never let the Bulldogs get closer than four from there. In the third, the Villains used an 8-2 run to lead by seven and fended off Murphy’s rally within one late.
Bishop forced match point twice in the fourth — and had a couple hits that could’ve ended the match — but the Bulldogs instead rallied to take the lead. The Villains fended off match point once themselves before Murphy finally tallied two points in a row on a violation and a kill to even the match 2-2.
Bishop built a slim 6-3 lead in the winner-take-all fifth set and stretched its cushion to 8-4 on an ace by Seeber. The Bulldogs got within two twice before the Villains scored three straight — highlighted by a kill by Leila Brown and an ace by Johnson — to lead 12-7.
The Villains regained their five-point lead at 14-9 and three points later finished off the victory on a set by Hauk and a hard spike by Olivia Martin in the middle.
“We just had to focus and get settled down — we did get kind of carried away with how excited we were,” Johnson said with a laugh. “But we realized what our assets were and how we could exploit theirs and execute quickly. … It was great. It really showed that we could pull out that fifth set and we’re here to play — and we’re here to win.”
Bishop will travel to top-seeded Mountain Island Charter on Tuesday. The winner of that match will play Saturday in the state championship at Green Level High in Cary.
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