Rockets split matches ahead of Thursday’s showdown

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It wasn’t the smoothest or the cleanest tune-up heading into the biggest match of the season, but the result was what was needed.

The Person High School volleyball team bounced back from a loss Monday night by holding off Northern Guilford, 3-1 (19-25, 25- 13, 25-19, 25-22) Tuesday at home.

The Rockets dropped a five-set heartbreaker the night before against South Granville and head into Thursday’s huge matchup at undefeated McMichael vulnerable, according to Person coach Tracey Vaughan.

“I think the team recognizes that we’re in a rough state right now and we’ve got to get that original lineup that worked so well for us back into play,” Vaughan said. “They’re going to work hard tomorrow (at practice) to iron out some things. I would rather play (McMichael) after a practice. They’re ready for it. They’ve been thinking about it, but at the same time, they recognize our weakness and we’re not going to let it get in our head.”

Person raced out to big opening set lead, but saw it disappear in a hurry. The Rockets led 16-8 after a Hailey Long cross court kill, but the Nighthawks roared back with a 13-1 run, led by sophomore Aimee Pack. Pack came through with five kills during that spurt, and Person helped with four errors, three while trying to receive serve.

The Rockets found some rhythm in the second and third sets, winning comfortably, but had to scramble to survive a late run in the fourth.

Person took complete control of the fourth set with an 11-1 run on the serves of Abby Gentry and Long and were on the verge of putting Northern Guilford away after leading 20-13.

The Nighthawks erased the deficit with seven straight points and were in position to take a lead after getting a free ball after a poor pass to the setter by a Person back row player.

A wide open attack sailed deep and Person put the set away with beautiful tip by Emma Duncan followed by back-to-back blasts from Long.

Long paced the Rockets with 17 kills.

The Rockets will get a day off before facing Mc- Michael (18-0) in a rematch of a five-set thriller won by the Phoenix three weeks ago. McMichael can clinch the Mid-State regular season title with a victory, while Person could force a tie atop the league standings heading into the final week of the season.

“The main thing that we have to do going into McMichael is to make sure that our setters and hitters have their connections back on,” Vaughan said. “There was nothing going on tonight. We had a lot of silly errors (against South Granville and Northern Guilford) than we have had the rest of the season combined. It’s not acceptable, but having that mental toughness coming off a loss and being able to fix it is great. This happened at the right time, but it still hurts.”

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