Down 11-8 in the first game, the Lady Wolves came back to take a 12-11 lead off of three straight serve points, including two aces from Catherine Nelson. Akron regained the lead 13-12, but Fayetteville came back with two straight serve points, including one ace from Eireonia Sanders. The Lady Wolves had a 20-18 lead late in the game following a Sanders kill, but Akron came back with the two teams playing to a 24-24 tie. Akron scored the final two points for the win on failed returns by Fayetteville.
“They just get so psyched out,” head coach Anita Simpson said of her team. “We’ve had the skills all year. If we could have played this in the comfort of our own gym, we should have come away with another win. The first couple games, we beat ourselves on our own errors. I think they did fantastic. They’re a good team, but we’re just as good. We didn’t lose because of one team being the best. We beat ourselves.”
In the second game, Fayetteville battled from being down 4-1 to taking a 5-4 lead off of three straight aces by Mackenzie Pennington. But Akron gained serious momentum behind the serving of Reginiqua Fields, who had six straight serve points, including one ace. After falling to a 20-8 deficit, Fayetteville fought to get back into the game, but the deficit was too much to overcome, and they fell 25-17.
Shelby Wales helped Fayetteville get an early 4-0 lead in the third game with four straight serve points, including one ace. Later in the match, Sanders had two straight aces to build a 22-17 lead. Akron came back to cut the lead to 23-22. Paige Lee had a kill to make it 24-22. Pennington served an ace for the game point.
Wales once again helped Fayetteville to an early lead, this time an 8-1 advantage. Wales had seven consecutive serve points, including one ace. But Fayetteville quickly lost the early momentum after having trouble with returns. Akron’s ReKeila Anderson had nine straight serve points, including two aces to give Akron a 14-9 lead, a lead they never relinquished. Nelson had two straight serve points, including one ace to cut the lead to 17-15, but Akron reeled off three straight points after that and went on to win 25-18.
Despite the loss, Simpson is proud of the season her team has this year.
“I couldn’t ask for a better season,” she said. “We still went out with a winning record again; we showed up at Regionals, kind of routine things for us. We usually have a good, winning season; we usually come to Regionals — I think there have only been two out of the last 10 years we have not made it.”