Nobody expected serving to pull the North Harford girls volleyball team through a tight match.
In the first four games Thursday at Edgewood, the Hawks missed 20 serves. They even opened the tie-breaking fifth set with a serve out of bounds.
What happened next surprised even the Hawks. Sheryl Pedrick stepped up to the service line for only the second time in the match. She responded with five screaming blasts that Edgewood could not return. Three were outright aces while the others caromed off defenders' arms. When Pedrick finished her streak, the Hawks led, 8-0, and went on to a 3-2 win.
Earlier in the Thursday doubleheader, the Rams boys beat North Harford, 16-14, 15-7, 15-8.
"I knew Sheryl had the potential to serve like that, but she's been inconsistent," explained coach Judy Crilley, adding that she left Pedrick on the court because her freshman replacement was getting nervous.
That fifth-set strong serving continued for the Hawks (3-3) as Jenn Wilson and Lori Pepper also aced the Rams. Pepper finished off the match with four straight points, including three aces.
The Hawks beat Edgewood, 15-10, 11-15, 15-10, 10-15, 15-3.
For the Rams girls (0-7), the match turned suddenly after they controlled the fourth game. Serving also played a critical role in the loss, according to Rams coach Barbara Lepper.
"If the first server does not get her serve over, that gives the momentum to the other side. In the last game, she got the bad serve, and that started it all."
Throughout the match, neither team managed much of a power offense. The Rams had changed their lineup to move sophomore captain Tonya Naylor to setter. Although she set almost every ball she reached and connected with big-hitter Jamese Kirby a couple of times, Naylor is still working on getting the sets near the net.
The Hawks also made a change in their lineup after an injury to setter Jamie Izdebski. The senior suffered a hand injury early in the second game, leaving all the setting chores to Michelle Mullin, who usually doubled as the Hawks' most powerful hitter.
In the boys match, Edgewood bounced back from a 10-14 deficit in the first game to spark the team through the rest of the match. Chris Pierce served the final six points of the first game. He had one ace, but the Hawks helped out by hitting four balls out of the court.
In the final two games, Edgewood (3-2) got strong hitting from lefty Pierce and newcomer Carey Cornelison. The third game turned on a Pierce spike, blasted off a perfect set by Kevin Kirby.
Josh Burwell kept the Hawks (0-5) in the match with a couple of blocks, two kills and several key saves late in the match.
The Rams might have finished off the match quicker if not for a lot of trouble with their first passes.
"We don't really have many hard servers except for the starting team, so it's hard to get much practice," explained Kirby. "That bump is what we really need to get down, because we don't have any offense unless we have that."