With a chance at the state playoffs on the line, Harnett Central’s varsity volleyball team had one of its best performances of the season on Thursday, ending the regular season with a 3-0 win over visiting Tri-County Six 3-A Conference and Harnett County rival Triton. Individual set scores were 25-11, 25-11 and 25-15.
HighSchoolOT projects the Trojans as a No. 15 or 16 seed in the Eastern bracket.
“They came in really focused,” said Harnett Central coach Chelsey Cabe. “Most humans are creatures of habit, so they spared no expense in preparations. Even their pre-game stuff, they were all focused as a team. They just don’t want their season to be over. They want to stay together as a team. I think they now see the potential they have as a team and how good they are and that’s driving them to prove that to everyone else.”
“We look a bunch of the stats after each set. Your hitters and being successful with big attacks and blocks are what builds your momentum, but you can’t do that without your passers. In the second set, we had no dig errors. And do you know how hard that is? Zero dig errors in a set? I guess that just goes to say how much they played together as a team. Everybody did their job.”
Triton coach Wendy Simmons said Triton dug itself too big a hold to climb out of.
“It was just not our night,” Simmons said. “We had a great Senior Night (a 3-2 win over conference leader Union Pines Tuesday). If that would have been the last one, that would have been great. But, I don’t have an answer for why we played the way we did. I thought we were maybe going to pull (the third set) off. I felt it a lot more than I did the first two, but we just got in that rut again. And when you play a team that has the skills that they do, you can’t dig too deep.”
The Trojans (8-3, 8-2 TCSC) finished in second place in the conference standings and the Hawks (7-4, 5-4) finished in third.
Despite Thursday’s loss, Simmons was still proud of her team’s effort in the second half of the season. After starting 2-3, Triton was on a five-match win streak prior to the match at Central.
“I set a goal for us to win out (after the 2-3 start) and we almost did it,” Simmons said. “We were shy one game. But, I’m proud of them. And I’m glad we got the season in and for the most part, everybody was healthy.”
Senior Syniah McMiller had nine kills and four blocks, senior Harper Howell had eight kills and 10 digs, junior Ivanna Jones had eight kills and three blocks and sophomore Carlie Love had 19 assists and one ace on 12 service points and senior Laurie Blackwell had 18 digs and two aces on 14 service points to lead the Trojans.
Sinai Avalos Beltran had four kills and one assist. Carlie Gardner had two kills. Love had one kill, one block and three digs. Blackwell had one kill. Carlee Harrell had 11 assists and two digs and held serve for two points. Howell had one assist, one block and one ace on four service points. Kayla Sadowski had eight digs and two aces on 10 service points. Jones had five digs and held serve for five points. Angel Noto had one dig.
Both Cabe and Harnett Central assistant Ashley Gaines were pleased to see all 10 members of Central’s roster contribute something to the win.
“I think it adds a lot of comfort as a coach to know that if somebody is struggling one night, because everybody’s going to have a bad night, that you have somebody else that you can put there that you can have confidence in.”
“We told them Tuesday, if we had to say something about all 10 of them, we could say something about all 10 of them,” Gaines said. “The past few games have been team effort and that’s how they’ve been towards each other all season. Even when they’re not getting much playing time, they’re on the bench cheering on whoever’s out there. It’s always been like that and now everybody gets to contribute to that.”
Senior Bethany Norris had three kills and senior Gracyn Slaughter had two kills and 13 digs to lead the Hawks.
Reagan Bradham had two kills, nine assists and five digs and held serve for two points. Olivia Godwin had two kills and one block. Carleigh Hemby had two kills, Breonna McNeill had one kill, one block and three digs. Slaughter had two assists and one ace on four service points. Sydney Morrison had one assist and three digs. Makayla Norris had seven digs and held serve for two points. Chelby Pascale had six digs and two aces on two service points. Bethany Norris had one dig and held serve for one point.
Central took control early in the first set, opening with seven unanswered points, including three kills from McMiller, two assisted by Harrell and one assisted by Love. The Trojans maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the set, which ended with a Howell kill, assisted by Love.
The second set was close early, but, holding an 8-6 lead, Central finished the set on a 17-6 run, capped by a Jones kill, assisted by Love.
Central jumped out to an early lead in the third set with a 7-2 run before Triton rallied with its own 7-2 run to tie the set 9-9. But with the score tied 12-12, Harnett Central ended the match with a 13-3 run, with Howell serving a match-ending ace.
Harnett Central also won the junior varsity match 2-1, giving Triton its lone JV loss of the season. But despite the loss, Triton’s JV still takes the conference championship.
Harnett Central is hopeful for a spot in the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs, but will have to wait until seeding is done on Saturday to find out.