BEAUFORT — East Carteret’s quest to win a volleyball league title was dealt a deathblow Tuesday night in a five-set loss to Northside-Pinetown.

The Mariners trailed the Panthers by a game in the 1A/2A Coastal Plains Conference after losing the first matchup of the season in five sets and needed a win to tie in the standings.

Instead, East couldn’t capitalize on a 2-1 set lead over the Panthers and fell 25-22, 16-25, 17-25, 25-21, 15-12.

“Obviously, it’s not the outcome that we wanted, but I think if we play like that going forward, we won’t lose too many, because they are a good team,” East coach Mickey Putnam said.

Northside left the gym at 14-1 overall and 6-0 in the CPC. The club came into the contest ranked second in the 1A East by MaxPreps. The Mariners slipped to 10-3 overall and 4-2 in the league and came in ranked 10th in the 2A East.

The Mariners are the only team in league play to win a set over the Panthers. The Pinetown squad swept its other four conference matches.

The home team had the momentum midway through thanks both to a win in the third set to go up 2-1 and a rowdy student section decked out in camouflage.

Anna Gillikin was dominant in the third set, and throughout the match, totaling a whopping 33 kills and nine blocks on the night while receiving serve 31 times with no errors. She led the team in each of those categories and also added seven digs.

“She is another level of crazy good,” Putnam said. “She just has that killer instinct. She wants to hit it hard and score. She is our best leader by example. You need a big play, you go to her, because she’s going to do it.”

Gillikin had nine kills and two blocks to help her team rush out to a 25-17 win in the third set. She had eight kills and a block in the previous set as East cruised to a 25-16 victory.

The first set proved to be the one to get away from the Mariners. They held an 18-14 advantage before giving up four of the next five points to lead 19-18. A Christa Golden kill and a Grace Fulcher ace then bought the team some breathing room at 21-18.

Northside’s Shyanne Buck then took control of the set, tallying four big kills to help her team go on a 7-1 run and win the first set 25-22.

“She wasn’t with us the first time we played them, so that was big for us to have her with us tonight,” Northside coach Michelle Leathers said. “She had some big hits for us.”

Service errors also played a part with East committing four in the set and 12 in the contest. The club hadn’t posted more than eight errors in a match this season and had committed six errors or less in 10 of its previous 12 matches.

“I think we did some things well, but there are also some things we need to work on,” Putnam said. “We missed a lot of serves in that first set, and that hurt. Those are gimmes. Those are like free throws. You have to make those.”

In the fourth set, the visitors turned a 1-1 tie into a 7-1 lead and later a 9-5 advantage into a 14-5 lead with big scoring runs.

“We had a bad habit of letting them get too many in a row,” Putnam said. “Those runs, they would have 5-6 points, and that is hard to come back from. We have a bad habit of putting it into autopilot.”

The Mariners cut the deficit to 17-14 after a 9-3 run with four kills from Golden and a rare block from Fulcher, the team’s setter. Fulcher produced 50 assists in the contest to go with nine digs.

Following four straight points from the Panthers to make it 21-14, East scored five of the next six points to cut it to 22-19 with Gillikin putting up two kills and Golden one. Golden finished with 14 kills and 11 digs.

The home team couldn’t complete the comeback, however, as Northside took three of the last five points with Buck scoring the winner on a kill.

East grabbed the early lead in the fifth set, going up 4-2 on two Gillikin kills, but the visitors rattled off 10 of the next 13 points to jump out to a 12-7 lead. Tip shots from Gillikin, Golden and Fulcher helped their team go on a 5-2 run to cut it to 14-12, but a hitting error ended the set and the match.

“Everybody played hard and dug deep,” Leathers said. “It was all about our defense and covering on the blocks. I take my hat off to East Carteret. They played hard. They wanted it just like we wanted. I knew it was going to be tight on the way over here on the bus. It was a good game. We didn’t want any less than what they gave us.”

Other contributors for the Mariners included Kate Guthrie with seven kills, three digs; Meadow Kaiser, four kills, three blocks, three digs; Ashlyn Guthrie, three aces, 11 digs; Ashley Popp, three aces; and Stella Bradford, 10 digs.

East has four conference matches remaining, taking on Jones Senior (0-12, 0-4), Pamlico (6-4, 3-2), Southside (6-6, 1-3) and Lejeune (1-10, 1-4).

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