Harnett Central finished the first half of All American 3-A/4-A Conference play with an unbeaten conference record after a 3-1 win at Harnett County rival Triton Tuesday by scores of 25-19, 25-19, 20-25 and 25-19.
“This is a game that’s always going to have high energy regardless of how anybody’s playing during the season,” said Harnett Central coach Ashley Gaines, who played volleyball at Triton and is the daughter of Triton coach Wendy Simmons. “Triton and Harnett Central are always going to bring their best game when they play each other. I told them, ‘Right now, you’re sitting at the No. 1 spot. You have to play like a No. 1 team.’”
Triton coach Wendy Simmons said the Hawks falling behind early in the sets they lost was a major factor.
“It seems like when we don’t get a good lead early, we shut down,” Simmons said. “And it takes several good things to happen to get back up. That’s just something we’ve got to work on. In the third set, we took the lead and kept it and I think that made a difference. The last set we started out bad again and missed five serves and you’re not going to win sets like that against a good team.”
Senior Ivanna Jones had a double-double, with 13 kills, one block and 10 digs, junior Lily Gervase had seven kills and four blocks, senior KeErica Snead had seven kills and one block and senior Sinai Avalos-Beltran had seven kills and 10 digs to lead the Trojans (6-5, 6-0 AAC).
“We like to establish the middle first and then we can work out from there,” Gaines said. “Ivanna, she’s going to find the floor at some point, regardless of its by swinging away, a roll shot, a tip. That’s her job is to find the floor for us. And when she’s hot, we’re all following suit with her. Sinai follows and gets hot. Lily follows and gets hot. And KeKe, in the past few games has really stepped in and, not only made her presence known with blocking, but is starting to get some kills for us, which we’re really excited about.”
Carlee Harrell had a double-double, with one kill, 10 assists, 19 digs and two aces on 13 service points. Carlie Love had 22 assists, two digs and one ace on 10 service points. Mikaela Goss had 17 digs and held serve for five points. Snead had five digs. Ashley Bliven had one dig and held serve for two points. Novie Womack had one dig. Jones had three aces on seven service points. Gervase had two aces on six service points. Avalos-Beltran had one ace on six service points. Cayleigh Hughes held serve for one point.
Sophomore Carleigh Hemby had 11 kills, two blocks and four aces on nine service points, senior Korra Altman had 10 kills and senior Reagan Bradham had a double-double, with 22 assists and 19 digs to lead the Hawks (3-9, 2-3).
“(Altman)’s been working hard,” Simmons said. “She was out last year because of an injury. So, it’s good to see her starting to play the way she’s capable of playing. Hopefully that will just get better over the next couple of weeks.”
Grace Wilson had four kills, two digs and one ace on four service points. Chyna Massey had two kills, one assist, three blocks, two digs and one ace on four service points. Bradham had two kills and one ace on nine service points. Olivia Godwin had one kill and four digs. Emma Stanley had two assists, six digs and two aces. Makayla Norris had 13 digs and held serve for seven points. Ava Blackman had 10 digs and three aces on eight service points. Altman had six digs. Hemby had five digs. Stephanie Davis had three digs.
Central held a 14-7 lead in the first set when Triton rallied with a 10-5 lead to cut the lead to two. But the Trojans finished the set on a 6-2 run.
Central held a late 21-12 lead in the second set when Triton rallied with six unanswered points, including three aces from Hemby, to cut the lead to three. But a Gervase block started Central on a 4-1 run, with a Jones kill, assisted by Love, ending the set.
The roles were reversed in the third set, as Triton held a late 23-12 lead when Central responded with an 8-1 run to cut the lead to four. But a Wilson kill, assisted by Bradham, gave Triton the set to keep the match alive.
Central grabbed the early lead in the fourth set and Triton kept it close most of the way, but was unable to rally. A Jones kill, assisted by Harrell, ended the match.
Harnett Central went 6-0 through the first half of conference play to hold first place in the conference standings, but still has to make up a match at Westover that was postponed from Sept. 2 because the Wolverines were in quarantine for COVID-19.
“I think they take a lot of pride in being No. 1 right now,” Gaines said. “I think they recognize that a lot of people didn’t see us being in the position after losing six big seniors like we did. And they are enjoying it. Winning’s contagious and we tell them all the time, ‘If you want to stay feeling like this, you’ve got to keep playing like this.’ And I think that drives them to continue to want to be the No. 1 team in the conference.”
Triton has a home match against Westover postponed from Sept. 7 and a match at Western Harnett postponed from Sept. 9 due to both opponents quarantining to make up from the first half of the conference schedule.
Harnett Central travels to non-conference South View on Wednesday before resuming conference play at Western Harnett on Thursday. Triton is at conference foe E.E. Smith on Thursday.