Murphy's Abby Carder leaps for a kill attempt Wednesday night against Starmount. Murphy fought to knock off the Lady Rams in round one of the state playoffs, but went on to clinch the match in five sets. Photo by KEVIN HENSLEY

Murphy rallies to win playoff opener, prepares to hit the road

Murphy – After the Murphy High School Lady Bulldogs clinched a round one 17-25, 25-22, 25-16, 18-25, 15-13 home victory over the Starmount Lady Rams Wednesday night, coach Nikol Watson used one word to express her sentiments: exhausted.

"Seven days without playing a game is a long time. That obviously showed,"

Watson said. "We have a tendency to drop the first set here lately, or at least come out and start real slow. I'm not really sure why."

Starmount stunned the packed Murphy gymnasium by quickly opening up a 10-3 advantage in set one, which snowballed to 22-6. The Lady Bulldogs were unable to come up with an answer, going on to drop the set 25-17 victory.

Murphy (20-2) regrouped and took a competitive set two 25-22 and a more defensive-minded 25-16 set three triumph. Midway through set four, the Lady Rams started a charge that Murphy again failed to slow down, stampeding to a 25-18 win. Senior

Leighton Brown served the Lady Bulldogs to a 6-0 lead early in set five. Later in the set, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves battling another Starmount rally. This time, Murphy was able to thwart the comeback attempt, winning the set and match, 15-13.

"They played really hard," Watson said. "Like I said, it's hard to go seven days and not play, especially at this level of competition. That's hard, but they bounced back. That shows how much character they have. I'm proud of them."

Brown had six aces, 17 assists and nine digs for Murphy. Emma Stroup recorded one ace, seven kills, eight blocks and 11 digs, while Katlyn Stiles notched one ace, three kills, two blocks and 11 digs. Jessica Beckner added nine kills, six blocks and four digs to the mix.

The Lady Bulldogs will travel to East Surry on Thursday, to continue their journey through the state playoffs. Thus far this season, the Lady Cardinals are 23-4 and knocked off the Highland School of Technology Wednesday 25-13, 25-8, 25-9 to advance.

Check out the Cherokee Scout's Facebook page, or keep tabs on Twitter @KevinHensleyCS, for the latest updates on continuing playoff coverage for Murphy.