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Pender falls to East Duplin

Pender's Amber Pyland (4) spikes the ball over East Duplin's Kati Sholar at Pender High School in Burgaw on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (Photo by Mike Spencer)

BURGAW | Pender left the friendly confines of Four-County Conference volleyball Thursday night to take on East Duplin.

While the Patriots (7-3) have excelled so far in conference play at 4-0, taking on a non-league foe again proved difficult as the Panthers took a 3-1 decision.

East Duplin jumped out to a 2-0 lead with 25-23 and 25-20 victories in the first two games, and then clinched the match with a 25-21 win in the fourth game.

Pender coach Matt Davis said the tough nonconference scheduling, which includes a pair of losses to 3A Topsail, is part of his overall plan for the 1A Patriots.

"We scheduled them because we knew they would be tough, and that they would test us," Davis said. "They certainly did that tonight."

In the first game of the match, the Patriots and Panthers shared a back-and-forth contest before East Duplin scored the last two points of the game to pull away.

In the second game, the Panthers held the lead for the duration of the contest. Errors and sloppy play caused the Patriots to fall behind early and East Duplin was able to come out with a 25-20 win.

"We had spurts where we gave them some, and our team's toughness in getting through that will help us out in the long run," Davis said.

Pender made a bid for a comeback by scoring five straight points at the end of the third game and winning it to make it a 2-1 match.

Davis shared what he told his players to motivate them after going down 2-0 in the match.

"We just got to play to win the way we want to play," Davis said. "We just got a little different rotation. Sometimes when you mix things up like that, it makes the girls focus a little bit more, and they came out and played the third game together. East Duplin played real good, but we played real good, too, to take that one."

Unfortunately for Pender, the comeback fell short in the fourth game. On the final play of the match, the Patriots were caught looking as East Duplin scored an ace to take the match 25-21.

Brianna Pittman led Pender with 10 kills, nine blocks, four digs and an ace.

The Patriots will take on conference opponent Union on the road Thursday.