The rowdy Paul VI fans waved a large black flag. They smacked a foam swimming noodle on the ground. They yelled at Ford by name, heckled her, tried to break her concentration.
The junior outside hitter heard the chirping — and loved every minute of it. In between two would-be aces, she glanced at the student section and smiled.
“I love it. I love it,” Ford said. “When people say my name, it makes me feel like a threat. It feeds me.”
One hour later, the Paul VI fans were silent as one of Ford’s thundering serves ricocheted off the ground for an ace. She finished with 13 kills and led the Huskies (14-1) to a commanding three-set victory, 25-18, 25-12, 25-14.
Ford wasn’t her usual dominant self over the weekend at the Flint Hill Invitational, where the Huskies fell to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in straight sets in the finals, ending a 24-match winning streak. It was also Flint Hill’s first loss in nearly a full calendar year.
“That was a huge wake-up call,” Ford said.
Coach Carrol Anderson spoke to her team about the loss before Monday’s practice. The Huskies told the 2012 All-Met Coach of the Year they had forgotten what it felt like to lose. And they didn’t like that feeling.
“I brought up our past, the teams in recent years that have done well,” Anderson said. “I told them how there was a lot of talent on those teams but the only way we were successful in the big games is that we played as a team. And that’s what we did tonight.”
While Ford returned to her usual dominance, Anderson also wanted to spark senior middle blocker Erica Narel, who finished with 11 kills and three blocks. The North Carolina State recruit drew attention in the middle of the net, leaving Ford with a single block on the outside.
“I’ll take that any day,” Anderson said.
The Panthers (12-2) regularly struggled to return Ford’s serves, and her spikes weren’t much easier to handle. Ford credited setter Allie Fellows for her performance and said that Fellows’s sets were among the best she has seen in a while.
That’s a strong statement considering the two have played together since they were 12 years old.
“She makes everyone look good,” Fellows said.
“It’s just awesome playing with your best friend,” Ford added, “especially when she’s your setter.”
Ford’s last kill of the night spun into no-man’s land and gave the Huskies a seven-point cushion in the third set. She took one final look at the stands, where the flag was no longer waving and nobody dared to say her name.