Triton’s varsity volleyball team edged visiting nonconference rival South Johnston in a five-set battle on Monday, winning by scores of 25-23, 15-25, 25-22, 21-25 and 15-13. The win avenges a 3-1 loss at South from Sept. 12.
“Feels good when you come out on the other end and not the short end this time,” said Triton coach Wendy Simmons. “I can honestly say it was a total team effort, because all 11 of them, at some point in time, played and different ones contributed at different times.”
Evie Pollard recorded a double-double, with 12 kills and 14 digs, Bethany Norris had 10 kills and Breonna McNeill had five blocks to lead the Hawks (8-10).
Tyler Grace Gamblin, less than one week after returning from an ankle injury, continued to get back to her old self, helping free Breigh Hobbs to focus more on hitting and defense. Hobbs had nine kills, two assists and 19 digs. Gamblin had four kills, 19 assists and three digs.
“I feel like it’s (her ankle) getting enough where I can go through the entire game without really thinking about it,” Gamblin said. “I don’t focus on it anymore and I think that’s made a really big change.”
“It was going from hitting and setting with (Gamblin), we shared it, and we ran a 6-2,” Hobbs said. “And then we went immediately to a 5-1 with her getting hurt. Me having to take that up threw me off a little bit. But with her getting back to being healthy again, I really like playing back row and I really like hitting. I feel like I’m more versatile there and can do that better than setting. I’m just really glad that she’s back to getting better so that I can do that.”
Also aiding Gamblin and Hobbs was the addition of Sydney Morrison to the starting lineup. She tallied one kill, 14 assists and seven digs.
“I think tonight I learned how to have fun and be confident,” Morrison said. “I used to be scared and didn’t think I was going to play my best. Tonight, I tried to really be confident, get all my serves in and just play my best.”
The serves of Hobbs, Morrison and Chelby Pascale were a key factor for Triton. Hobbs led the team with four aces on 12 service points, Pascale had three aces on seven service points and Morrison had two aces on seven service points.
“(Pascale)’s got a good serve and I don’t hesitate to put her in to serve,” Simmons said. “I thought Breigh did a great job placing the ball. It’s nice to see them get on runs on their serve.”
“I had been missing serves during games and practices,” Morrison said. “So, I tried to work on it during our pass practice on Friday. I tried to input that into this game and it definitely worked.”
Leah Brannon had three kills and seven digs and held serve for two points. Gracyn Slaughter had one kill, one assist and 14 digs and held serve for one point. McNeill had one kill and four digs and held serve for three points. Pascale and Grace Wilson had one kill apiece. Norris had three assists, two blocks and six digs and held serve for eight points. Pollard had one assist and one block. Maddie Stephens had one assist, two digs and one ace on four service points. Gamblin held serve for one point.
Katon Blackmon had 19 kills, LeeAnna Hines had nine kills and four blocks, Jenna Brown had six blocks and three aces on 18 service points and Kennedy Byrd had 28 digs to lead the Trojans (13-6).
Jordyn Brown had five kills, one block and five digs. Carlye Durham had five kills, one block and three digs. Byrd had two kills, one assist and one ace on six service points. Jenna Brown had two kills, and five digs. Paige Toler had two kills and two digs. Mattie Wheeless had 29 assists, six digs and two aces on five service points. Hannah Beasley had 10 assists and four aces on 13 service points. Blackmon had one assist, five digs and three aces on five service points. Callie Sutton had six digs and held serve for five points. Hines had three digs. Erica Stanley had one dig and two aces on five service points.
South held a late 20-13 lead in the first set when a Hobbs kill, assisted by Morrison, followed by a Hobbs ace sparked a 12-3 run, with a Pollard kill, assisted by Gamblin, finishing the set.
South opened the second set with a 9-1 run before Triton rallied to cut the lead to three. But South answered with a 10-3 run to fully take control of the set, which ended with a Jordyn Brown kill, assisted by Byrd.
The third set was a close battle. With the score tied 20-20, Triton went on a 5-2 run, capped by a set-winning kill from McNeill, assisted by Morrison.
South held a late six-point lead, at 21-15, in the fourth set before Triton rallied to cut it to two, at 22-20. But a 3-1 run, capped by a Jenna Brown block, sent the match to the decisive fifth set.
With the score tied 12-12 in the fifth set, a South service error and a McNeill block brought up match point for Triton. A Triton error briefly kept the set alive, but Pollard ended the match with a kill, assisted by Gamblin.
South Johnston is on the road against Greater Neuse 3-A Conference and Johnston County rival West Johnston (11-7) on Tuesday. The Wildcats swept the first meeting at South on Sept. 19.
Triton is at home against Tri-County Six 3-A Conference opponent Southern Lee (9-5) on Tuesday. The Hawks will be looking for payback after a 3-1 road loss on Sept. 18.
“I know we’re a different team than we were there,” Simmons said. “They have good ball control. They keep the ball in play and don’t make as many errors as we do. It’s going to be a matter of us showing up and playing as perfect volleyball as we can.”
“We’ve got to bring the momentum from this game into that game,” Hobbs said. “And let that drive us forward.”