Northern Guilford is headed to the fourth round for the first time in its school’s history.
After achieving a 23-21 record in the last two seasons, the Nighthawks, seeded 4th, exceeded this win count on Thursday evening by defeating (5) Watauga in four sets during the third round of the playoffs.
Senior Macy Bolyard, who can do it all, made crucial plays in the final moments as the Nighthawks improved to 24-2 after bouncing back from a loss in the second set to win the next two convincingly.
The USC beach commitment played a crucial role in giving the home team an initial 8-2 advantage in the first set. Courtney Burnham and Sammy Chavis worked together to increase the lead to ten points, and Northern maintained their dominance, ultimately winning the first set 25-15.
Watauga quickly rebounded with an impressive performance.
During the beginning of the second period, the Pioneers were performing at their best. Emma Pastusic and Olivia Kop helped secure an 8-0 lead.
Gradually, Northern started to reduce the gap in points. In seven separate instances, the Nighthawks decreased their deficit in the second set to only three points. Solid performance at the net by Kora Knight and Kate McCullough prevented Watauga from making significant advances.
In the later part of the set, Lizzy Miller closed the distance to just two points. Bolyard then delivered two kills from the right side, resulting in a tie at 24-24 for Northern Guilford. Brooklyn Stanberry and Kasey Gragg were able to secure the last two points of the second set, leading to a 26-24 win and tying the match at 1-1.
Burnham helped the Nighthawks gain a 6-1 advantage in the third period. The lead grew to seven before Northern began the fourth set with a 25-19 victory.
In their final appearance on their home floor, the Nighthawk seniors shined brightest. Big plays at the net from Burnham, Bolyard, Miller, and Abby Stefanick finished off the match in style, winning the fourth handily to advance in the postseason.
First-year head coach Kari Hankins has taken the team to new heights. Their next stop is a regional semi-final appearance on Saturday afternoon at (1) Reagan. The top-seeded Raiders are 36-0 and have won each of their last 35 sets played.
The team that wins Saturday’s game will move on to the 4A western regional final and compete against the winner of the (3) Cox Mill versus (2) Marvin Ridge match.