South set to compete for title in new conference

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 8/26/21

Fresh off a 3-1 win at Triton, South Johnston volleyball coach Matthew Adams gives an outlook for the team's upcoming prospects ahead of conference play in the newly-formed Quad County 3A.

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South set to compete for title in new conference

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ERWIN — Matthew Adams is used to having his South Johnston volleyball team mentioned alongside the Greater Neuse River Conference elites.

Now a league of the past, Adams won't have to contend with juggernauts like Clayton and Cleveland on a weekly basis, giving this year's Lady Trojans squad an added sense of determination as they brace for Quad County 3A supremacy. 

"We feel confident that, playing to our potential, we have a chance to compete for the conference championship. That's what our goal is," Adams said following a 3-1 road win at Triton Tuesday. 

South saw its 2020 campaign interrupted twice due to COVID-19 protocols, forcing the team to complete just nine matches. The group still finished second in the GNRC standings with a 5-3 league record.

That version of the Lady Trojans featured the offense of Katon Blackmon, a former All-Record Volleyball Player of the Year winner who consistently led the team in kills each year.

This year's iteration boasts a more balanced attack with Jordyn Brown assuming Blackmon's role. 

Now in her third season starting for the Lady Trojans, the 6-foot junior is riding the wave of a busy summer in which she was named an AAU Volleyball Academic All-American and competed in the AAU Junior Nationals Championships in Orlando.

Brown has had success in the early going, as seen Tuesday with her match-high 13 kills that helped South improve to a 3-2 record. 

Savannah Smith, one of seven seniors on the roster, moved from inside to outside of Adams' formation this season. She finished with 12 kills against the Lady Hawks, nine of which came in the final two sets. 

Both Brown and Smith provided key points to halt Triton's runs in the third and fourth sets after dropping the second frame, 18-25. 

"I think we passed, overall, better – serve received, and took advantage of the digs and the free balls in the third and fourth set. And we were able to run the offense,"  Adams said. 

"I feel like when we're running offense, we're obviously a better team and hard to beat." 

Versatile freshman Lannah Price looks to provide help both outside and in the middle as a blocker. She tallied six kills and a team-high four blocks to help quiet the aggressive swings from the likes of Triton's Carleigh Hemby. 

"She brings a lot of energy. She just has a strong volleyball IQ," Adams said of Price. 

The Lady Trojans' back line is anchored by a familiar force in senior libero Kennedy Byrd, who has led the team in digs the past two seasons. 

Adams is optimistic that his unit was able to establish an all-around chemistry during the six tune-up matches as they prepare for new league foes such as Hunt, fresh off a conference title after going undefeated in Big East 3A play a year ago. 

"We've planned some battles in the non-conference (schedule) ... and all these matches are hopefully preparing us to make a run," he said.

South opens Quad County 3A play Tuesday at Smithfield-Selma. 

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040.

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