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Lady Huskies, Red Rams bounced from playoffs

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WAKE FOREST — One of Heritage volleyball’s best seasons has come to an end after the Huskies lost to Holly Springs 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-19) at home Tuesday in the second round of the 4A state playoffs.

Heritage came into the postseason with the No. 6 seed in the east region and a bye week in the first round. The Huskies could not come up with the win against a strong Holly Springs team which improved to 20-5 after the playoff victory.

“Holly Springs is a great team,” head coach Jessica Furlough said. “This kind of matchup should have happened in the third or fourth round of the playoffs. When you don’t control the things you can control, you end up having a bad game. I’m proud of the girls. This one game doesn’t define our entire season.”

The first set was a back-and-forth battle with great plays from both teams. There were more than eight lead changes until the Huskies took a 20-17 lead. However, Holly Springs fought back and took back the advantage at 22-21. It was a close finish, but the Golden Hawks edged out the Huskies 25-23 to win the first set.

In the second set, Holly Springs jumped out to a 17-10 lead. Heritage only managed a few more points from there, but the Golden Hawks closed out with a 25-14 win.

In the third and final set, it was another back-and-forth contest. Holly Springs finally pulled away at 17-14 and then extended their lead from there. An ace from the Golden Hawks ended Heritage’s season with a 25-19 win.

The last time Heritage played Holly Springs was in the regular season back in 2017. The Huskies beat them twice that year 3-1, but it was not the case Tuesday night.

After the game, Furlough praised her eight seniors for giving the team a wonderful season. Shirita Wells finished her four-year career on varsity with over 1,000 assists and led the Huskies in aces this year.

Jessica Connelly tallied more than 500 kills in two years on varsity. Shannon Ullman posted over 140 blocks in two years on varsity. Maddie Halsey will play volleyball at William Peace University next year after contributing two years on varsity for Heritage.

“I don’t think I can say enough about this group of seniors,” Furlough said. “They were the top in the conference for a reason. We have to say goodbye to several leaders on and off the court. We’re going to have to replace almost all the starters next year. They left a legacy. Hopefully the next crop of players that come in next year will be just as good. They will have big shoes to fill.”

With the loss, Heritage finished the 2019 season 17-7 overall and 9-2 at home. The Huskies shared the regular season NAC 6 conference championship with Corinth Holders and then beat Corinth Holders to win the conference tournament championship. The 17 wins in a season ties their school record for most wins in a season. Heritage has won at least 15 games every year for the past three seasons.

“Next year, we have to be competitive both offensively and defensively,” Furlough said. “The past couple of years, we have been a strong presence at the net. We just have to keep it up next year. We’re a strong serving team, too. We just have to keep up that fighting spirit next year and never give up.”

Franklinton gets swept by Person High School

The same night, Franklinton’s season came to an end after losing to Person County High School 3-0 (25-9, 25-14, 26-24) in the second round of the 3A state playoffs.

The Lady Red Rams finished the year 20-5 overall. They won the Big East conference championship for the third year in a row under first-year head coach Tom Harris. Franklinton’s last win of the season was a 3-0 victory over New Hanover in the first round of the 3A state playoffs last Saturday.

Franklinton will say goodbye to four seniors on the squad. Rebekah Smith, Denise Burk, Amber Rushing and Gia Castator all played their final game as a Red Ram on Tuesday night.

Franklinton will gain seven seniors next year if all of the junior players return. The Red Rams will look to continue their conference championship streak in 2020.