North Duplin battles in "Pink Out" cancer game

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CALYPSO - North Duplin nearly pulled off the upset against Carolina 1A volleyball rival Rosewood on Tuesday evening.

Though disappointed, the Rebels’ final home outing of the season carried a bigger meaning. The team held their annual “Pink Out" cancer game, a fund raiser for the Outlaw Foundation, which assists families stricken by the disease.

“We’re out here tonight for more than just volleyball,” said ND head coach Heather Best after a 20-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-23, 8-15 loss to the Eagles.

“This is just a small part of our life.”

Before the match, Foundation founder Bill Outlaw said the non-profit organization has raised more than $400,000 over the past decade. The money does not go toward cancer research, but instead helps local families who have faced a loss of income due to cancer affecting their household.

Families receive assistance paying their bills, putting food on the table and getting rides back and forth to doctor’s appointments.

Outlaw said without sponsors and the communities’ generosity, the foundation wouldn’t be able to accomplish its goals.

Wearing a bright “Dig Pink” T-shirt, Best considered the loss an improvement and opted to emphasize the positives.

“Our girls overcame a lot today,” Best said. “If you follow some of the games in the past, they struggled with things. Today, we did a lot better.”

The longtime rivals experienced a contest of ebbs and flows.

Each attempted to use the other team’s miscues and transition balls to their advantage.

Rosewood controlled the opening set, but staved off a late comeback attempt from North Duplin. Two kills and a block from Morgan McCoy, and Reece Outlaw’s smash on an overpass kept the margin close before the Eagles pulled away.

The Rebels regained their composure, started to communicate and ran their offensive system in set two. The Eagles trimmed an 11-point deficit to single digits, but could get no closer.

Sets three and four played out in similar fashion.

In the fourth, North Duplin trailed early and climbed to within 19-16. Unforced errors started to pile up for Rosewood, which eventually surrendered its lead.

After five consecutive ties, McCoy’s kill and a passing error by the Eagles forced the decisive fifth set.

Logan Jones’ ace broke a 5-5 deadlock and ignited a short, 3-0 burst by the Rebels. Kasey Jones’ off-speed shot to the middle and an ace from Outlaw extended the margin to 8-5.

Rosewood answered with a match-ending 10-1 run that included six aces by Skyler Lassiter.

“[The comeback] just shows what type of team we have,” Best said. “You know it’s frustrating when you lose something that close…not securing it. We’re going to finish out our season, keep playing strong.

“The fact we played hard today, I don’t want the loss to overshadow that.”

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