South Johnston’s volleyball team got off on the right foot this week. After winning the first game of the season 3-0 at Princeton on Monday, the Trojans turned around and beat Midway 3-1 by set scores of 25-12, 25-22, 23-25 and 25-15 on Tuesday.
South head coach Matthew Adams was happy with the way his team responded after dropping the third set.
“I’m proud of our effort,” Adams said. “We were up 23-22 in the third set, so very close to closing it out in three sets. We came out of a timeout and missed a serve. That’s a very bad change of momentum at a bad time. But even dropping that third set, we came out and were in control for pretty much the whole fourth set. I was proud of their focus in that regard.”
Midway struggled with errors throughout the match, something that can be expected from a young team early in the season.
“That’s what it all boiled down to was the mistakes,” said Midway coach Brandy Wrench. “It was all the point of the communication and the effort staying there. You make a mistake here and they let the next one slide and the next one slide, it’s hard to come back on.”
Katon Blackmon had 11 kills and two blocks and Jenna Brown had 10 kills and three blocks to lead South up front, while Mattie Wheeless recorded a match-high 37 assists to go with 12 digs and four aces on 14 service points.
Adams was especially happy with his team’s play at the net. In addition to Blackmon and Brown, Leanna Hines posted seven kills and four blocks, Carlye Durham and Savannah Smith had four kills each, Jordyn Brown had three kills, Paige Toler had two kills, and Kennedy Byrd and Paige Toler had one kill each.
“This is probably as well-rounded as we’ve been offensively,” Adams said. “There are kills across the board. I think Leanna, Jenna and Katon are probably going to lead us most of the time, but Savannah and Jordyn both played well as a freshman and a sophomore.”
Defensively, Byrd led the way with 14 digs. Sutton added 12 digs, Erica Stanley had 10 digs, Blackmon had seven digs and Toler had two digs.
On the other side of the net, Wrench felt like the Raiders did have some promising moments, playing a competitive second set and winning the third.
Allison Bellflowers had eight kills, three digs, one ace and one block and Makayla Chavis had eight kills and six digs to lead Midway. Makenzie Hudson added six kills and two blocks. Caitlyn Holland was the Raiders’ most well-rounded, racking up five kills, 13 assists and 11 digs. Jordan Wallum added three kills, two assists and eight digs. Chloe Baggett had two kills and three digs. Taylor Williams had two kills. Sydney Williams had one kill, 17 assists, eight digs and two aces. Emma Clark had one kill. Maranda Byrd had four assists, 18 digs and one ace. Natalie McPhail had nine digs.
“From the gate, I said we’d stay competitive at the top [of the East Central Conference],” Wrench said. “This right here is a slap in the face to let you know that there’s still other teams that are going to make you work for it and it’s not going to come easy. So this is a good experience to start out with a loss. I’d rather lose to [South] any day as well as they play. It’s still a hard loss, but it’s better than to lose to someone later that’s not at the same caliber.”
South set the tone early, jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first set and maintaining that lead throughout.
It looked like South might win a comfortable second set as they led 23-16, but following a timeout by Wrench, the Raiders went on a 6-1 run to cut it to 24-23. South was able to close it out though to go up 2-0.
The third set was the most competitive, with 10 ties and three late lead changes, but Midway was able to pull it out to extend the game.
South again set the tone early in the fourth set, this time with a 9-1 run, and never looked back, taking the 3-1 victory.
Adams is excited about this year’s group, and thinks the strong start could be indicative of what’s to come this season.
“It’s kind of a team that’s been building to this point,” Adams said. “When [the seniors] were freshmen, we won three games on varsity that year. Now we’re just kind of on the way back up. Last year I thought we competed most of the time we stepped out on the court. This year I think we have a good chance to win every time we step out on the court.”