FRANKLINTON SENIOR SERVER AMBER RUSHING
STANHOPE -- Two teams on different missions met last Thursday when Southern Nash entertained Franklinton as part of the annual Senior Night festivities for the Ladybirds' volleyball squad.
While honoring the upperclassmen was certainly a priority, SNHS coach Melanie Hicks was also concerned as to whether her club's overall body of work would be good enough to earn a spot in the Class 3-A State Playoffs.
Certainly, a victory over Big East Conference powerhouse Franklinton would aid the cause, but the Lady Rams also had something to prove after falling to Wilson Hunt earlier in the week.
That setback marked the first time Franklinton had been defeated in the league since joining the Big East before the 2017 campaign.
Following that loss, the Lady Rams set forth to embark on a new victory streak, and it began with a three-set victory over Southern Nash, which took a potential postseason hit with the home loss at the SNHS Gymnasium.
But it wasn't easy as the Ladybirds came out fired up, only to eventually be overwhelmed by Franklinton's impressive overall talent level.
Scores were 25-19, 25-13 and 25-19 in favor of the Lady Rams.
The defeat pushed Southern Nash to fourth place in the league under Hicks, who prepped at nearby Bunn High School.
Franklinton, meanwhile, is tied with Hunt for the top spot heading into the Big East Conference Tournament.
But the Lady Rams had some early difficulties in the Southern Nash match as they appeared surprised by the Ladybirds' Senior Night momentum before taking control.
Southern Nash stunned Franklinton by winning the first several points off Magan Bland's serve.
FHS started to right itself quickly thanks to the usual strong work of middle hitter Rebekah Smith, who sent down four kills to bring the Lady Rams back to within 11-10.
Franklinton finally took its first lead when senior veteran Denise Burk delivered three consecutive service points, with Sarah Dodrill and Amber Rushing coming through with back-to-back blasts to send the Lady Rams ahead 15-14.
But SN quickly regained a sideout off a kill from Lyndsey Turner, and the match was tied at 18-18 before the Lady Rams took charge.
A kill from Smith pushed Franklinton ahead 20-18, and the Lady Rams' cushion was still at two points (25-19) when freshman De'Nyla Harden came to the line and nailed the next four points, beginning with a clutch ace.
Southern Nash was able to stay within 10-8 in the second set after a kill from Olivia Cruz, but Franklinton would take over from there as Rushing nailed seven points in a row, including an ace. to push the Lady Rams ahead 21-9.