CRESTVIEW — A tough-minded Niceville High School volleyball team visited Crestview's "Dog Pound" Thursday night for a key District 1-7A match.
In what could be a preview of the district tournament championship next month, the Eagles outlasted the Bulldogs taking the match 3-1. The set scores were 25-11, 23-25, 25-14, 25-22.
The Eagles (11-2) were coming off a hard match with Chiles on Wednesday and Niceville coach John Michael Plummer was satisfied to leave Crestview with the victory.
"My girls are pretty emotionally drained after a big match we had last night so I'm just happy we got out of here with a win," he said. "We will take the next match as it comes."
Niceville never trailed in the first set as Bailey Noon opened things up with a kill and Portia Rogers had a pair of service aces as the Eagles jumped in front 4-0.
A Jasmine Middleton kill for the Bulldogs stopped the early run, but Crestview was never able to get any closer than four points the rest of the set as Niceville pulled away for the win. Ashley Hagood, Jennifer Smith and Breana Rodriguez all played strong in the first set for the Eagles.
The Bulldogs (9-3, 2-2) rally backed to take the second as Middleton was a killing machine hammering home shot after shot to keep scattering the Eagles.
Middleton was far from a one-woman attack though as Brittany Pase and Kierra Potts helped spark the Bulldog attack at the net.
Crestview was able to maintain a slim two point lead throughout most of the set, but Niceville briefly rallied behind the serving of Smith to go up 17-15. The Bulldogs then went on a quick 3-0 run to move in front 18-17.
Niceville was up 23-22 when a Molly Woodward score gave Crestview the serve. Kristen Bufkin was in serve as Nicole Lefevre picked up a kill and Potts a block to give the Bulldogs the win in the set.
The Eagles continued to pressure Crestview the final two sets and often converted Bulldog mistakes to score quick points. Niceville took the lead at 4-3 in the third set and led the rest of the set.
"We ran 55 percent offense and they ran like 90 (percent of the offense)," Crestview coach Kathy Combest said. "When we run 90 (percent of the offense) we beat them because they didn't get anything up that Jazz (Middleton) and Brittany (Pase) hit.
"Until we can pass the ball to the setter we are not going to win. Every time, we have to pass the ball to the setter. Our blockers are touching it, but we aren't getting our defense covering our hitters."
An ace by Middleton gave Crestview an 8-4 in the fourth set. The Eagles clawed their way back into the set taking the lead at 11-10 on kill by Rodriguez.
The teams traded points the rest of the way, but in the end the Eagles were able to hold off the Bulldogs.
Plummer said he wasn't concerned about the possibility of a rematch with the Bulldogs in the district tournament.
"I'm not worried about it," he said. "I'm not worried about it and that's it. I know my team can play a lot better than that and they have.
"It's a good home crowd here so we will have to watch out for that in districts because districts is hosted here (at Crestview)."
It wasn't all bad news for Crestview as the Bulldog freshmen and JV teams won. Crestview won the freshmen match 25-22, 25-17 and the JV match 25-18, 25-21.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.