Late Wednesday afternoon before taking on Vance-Granville, members of the Sandhills Community College volleyball team learned they had been ranked No. 8 in the first regular season NJCAA Division III national poll of the season.
Fresh off a sweep of the five matches they played last weekend in New York City, the Lady Flyers improved to 10-0 with a 25-16, 25-5 and 25-20 victory in their Region X conference opener at Heins Gymnasium. They were scheduled to return to action on Thursday in a 6 p.m. match at Wake Tech.
Middle hitters Paige Garner, Morgan McCarthy and Tee'Ashia Lilly took turns dominating the smaller Vanguard players at the net. McCarthy finished with a team-high seven kills followed by Garner and Lilly with six each. Garner was also credited with a career-high six solo blocks.
"I think they were really excited," Flyers' coach Alicia Riggan said of her squad that displayed plenty of energy during the pre-game warmups. "We went to New York hoping to come back and be ranked. And so we were sitting by our phones and computers waiting for the poll to be released.
"We were hosting our first conference game tonight and then we came out in the first set really flat."
The visitors led 9-7 when two kills in a row by Lilly drew the Flyers even. The 5-foot-11 freshman then served for five points in a row, including the first of her five service aces, to put the home team in front for good.
"I just wanted to speed up the game, push our team forward and get to 25 points," she said.
Lilly was on the serving line for the first six points of the second set. Outside hitters Kaitlyn Lisenby and Chelsea Green were big contributors as the Flyers were successful on ten of their 12 attacks.
Defensively, the home team did not allow a point, other than by a service error, until the lead reached 18-3. The final point of set two came on a pass from the left by Cayce Cleghorn all the way across to Green on the right for a cross court smash.
When the Flyers fell behind 13-10 in the third set, Garner helped restore order. She was responsible for five points on kills or solo blocks to help her team go in front 17-13.
"We like to see Paige being aggressive and that was exciting to see," Riggan said.
Garner rotated off the court at that point and McCarthy came in and teed off on the visitors for four kills on the final seven points of the match.
Overall, Riggan was disappointed with her team's uneven performance.
"There might have been some nerves because of the start of conference," the coach said. "They've set pretty high goals. I told them you can't come out against Wake Tech like that tomorrow.
"A win is a win and that's great, but that's not the way a National No. 8 team in the nation plays."