Hartsville's Lauren Thomas (right) and Alize Thomas (left) go up to block the shot of Wilson's Talia Emmen on Thursday during the Red Foxes' 3-2 victory at the HHS gymnasium.

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Billy Smith’s Hartsville volleyball squad needed to regroup.

Up 2-0 on Wilson on Thursday, the Red Foxes suffered the same fate as a lot of teams this season after the Tigers rallied to tie the match and force a fifth and decisive set.

“We just had to settle down,” Smith said. “I give them credit because they’re a good team and had some blocks on us and started making my hitters second-guess their hits. We just had to bring it back to zero and that’s what we did. We started all over again.”

Hartsville came out strong in the fifth set, and this time held off another Wilson rally to claim the 3-2 Region 6-4A victory by scores of 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 21-25 and 15-10.

The Red Foxes improved to 6-3 overall and 2-0 in region play while the Tigers fell to 7-6 and 1-1.

“I think we got some unlucky breaks from time to time and that started to get in their heads,” Smith said of the match being pushed to five sets. “We needed to regroup and going into the fifth set allowed us to do that and we were able to pull it out.

“A lot more energy and a lot more focus in that last game.”

As indicated by the scores, every game was tight. The first one saw 10 lead changes and the score was tied 20-20 before Hartsville finally put together a 5-0 run to pull away. The Red Foxes rallied from four down to grab a four-point lead in the second set before holding off another Tigers charge to go up 2-0.

But then Wilson started to find its game once more. Down 22-20, WHS rallied for five straight points to take the third set and trailed only once briefly in the fourth set to force yet another match to go the distance.

“We even fought back in that last set, but once they got to eight or nine, it kind of snowballed from there,” Tigers coach John Davis said. “Still proud of my girls. One thing I talk to them about is being fighters and never giving up – and they have that lesson down pat because we’ve been going five sets with a lot of people.

“They just have to learn to start matches off the way they end them.”

It’s been an issue most of the season for the Tigers as Davis’ team is usually slow to start before finishing strong.

“It takes us a while to get going,” he said. “Once we get going, we can be pretty competitive. We’ve just got to learn to be competitive right out the gate. We let them off the hook a little bit with a couple of our errors. If we could clean up a couple of our service errors and our ball-handling errors, we’re right there.”

Hartsville travels to Darlington on Tuesday in its next contest and Wilson will host North Myrtle Beach on Tuesday as well.

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